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Burmese Daw 



rOMPUETE &UNABRIfX3Fn 


GEORGE 

ORWELL 

animal farm 
burmese days 
a clergyman’s daughter 
coming up for air 
keep the aspidistra flying 
nineteen eighty-four 


Seeker & Warborg/Octopus 




Animal Farm first published in Great Britain in 1945 
Burmese Days first published in Great Britain in 1935 
A Clergyman’s Daughter first published in Great Britain in 1935 
Coming up for Air first published in Great Britain in 1939 
Keep the Aspidistra Flying first published in Great Britain in 1936 
Nineteen Eighty-Four first published in Great Britain in 1 949 

© 1934, 1935s 1936, 1939s 1945s 1949 The Estate of Eric Blair 

This edition first published in 1976 by 
Martin Seeker & Warburg Limited, 

14 Carlisle Street, London W.i. 
in association with 
Octopus Books Limited, 

59 Grosvenor Street, London W.i. 

ISBN o 905712 04 8 

Printed in Great Britain by 
Jarrold & Sons Ltd., Norwich. 



CONTENTS 

animal farm 11 
burmese days 69 
a clergyman’s daughter 253 
coming up for air 427 
keep the aspidistra flying 573 
nineteen eighty-four 741 



INTRODUCTION 

T he novels of George Orwell, like his great essays, reflect, as in a mirror, 
constantly crystal-clear and frequently sharp with menace, the 
extensive changes of outlook and the shifts of values in British and' 
indeed much of human society in the first half of the twentieth century. 

Orwell was born Eric Blair in 1903 in an India that still seemed firmly fixed in 
an immutable Empire on which the sun never set. He attended Eton, his first 
publication was a patriotic poem printed by a provincial newspaper during the 
1914-18 war, and in 1922 he joined the Indian Imperial Police and served in 
Burma for the next five years. On leave to England in 1927 he decided not to 
return to the Far East and resigned. From that time his life, until then 
seemingly cast in an upper middle-class mould and pointing towards a 
conventional career in Imperial service, took an entirely fresh course. 
Determined to become a writer, he lived in a succession of mean rooms on next 
to nothing in London and Paris, and it was in the latter city that his first article 
as a professional writer was published. He worked there as a kitchen porter in a 
luxury hotel and tramped and picked hops in Kent, later both conjured up so 
vividly in Down and Out in Paris and London . During this time, 1930-33, 
Orwell picked up a meagre living as well as he could, whether by reviewing or 



teaching, and he continued to write Burmese Days, completing it before going 
down with a bout of recurrent pneumonia. When theahook came out in the 
U.S.A. (as no English publisher had bought it) Orwell had taken a job as a part- 
time assistant in a London bookshop. Burmese Days eventually appeared in 
England, a few months after A Clergyman's Daughter came out in 1935. Early 
in the following year Orwell was reviewing fiction for the New English Weekly 
and was also gathering material for a book on the depressed areas of the 
industrial North of England, The Road to Wigan Pier. 

When the Spanish Civil War began in 1936, Orwell foresaw the importance- 
of its outcome to the future of Europe and .before the year ended he had enlisted 
in Barcelona. While in the front line as a Republican militiaman -with the 
P.O.U.M., the anarchists and the Trotskyites, he was shot in the throat by a 
sniper. He survived and returned to England to write one of the most forthright 
and fearless books on the Spanish struggle, Homage to Catalonia, which came 
out in April 1938, one of the first books to denounce the Communists for 
exploiting the struggle for their own ends. He was repeatedly rejected on 
medical grounds when he tried to enlist in the British Army in 1939 on the 
outbreak of war: He subsequently served in the Home Guard, worked in the 


B.B.C. and became Literary Editor of Tribune. Coming Up for Air was written 
immediately before the war, prophesying the war, and Inside the Whale and 
The Lion and the Unicorn followed in wartime. Just after the war ended and as 
Orwell rounded off a stint as Observer war correspondent in Europe, Animal 
Farm> that outstanding political satire against tyranny in general and the 
Stalinist betrayal of the Revolution in particular, was published and he began 
work on Nineteen Eighty-Four. Thanks to the money earned by the book in 
America Orwell found himself, for the first time in his life, free from money 
worries, able to live on the island of Jura off the West of Scotland and to drop 
much of his journalistic work to concentrate on his book and a few last essays. 
But his health deteriorated progressively and seven months after the 
publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four he died in 1950 at the age of 46. 

George Orwell holds a unique place in contemporary English literature. He 
used facts and his own observation and when there was no actual reporting to 
be done, invention took over, as in Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four , and 
his clear vision, realistic deduction and profound understanding of human 
behaviour enabled him to reach the inner recesses of the reader’s mind and 
startle him to reflection and self-examination. He said that one of his motives 



for writing was a ‘desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store 
them up for the use of posterity ... In a peaceful age I might have written ornate 
or merely descriptive books . . . When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to 
myself “I am going to produce a work of art.” I write it because there is some lie 
I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial 
concern is to get a hearing.’ 

George Orwell certainly got his hearing and a constantly-increasing 
worldwide audience. Honesty, vigour and relevance to today are present in all 
these novels. Read any newspaper and Animal Farm is never far away and 
Nineteen Eighty -Four remains as true a description of the abuse of power as 
when he wrote it. 



animal 

farm 

A FAIRY STORY 




I 


Mr Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but 
was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes. With the ring of light from 
his lantern dancing from side to side, he lurched across the yard, kicking off his 
boots at the back door, drew himself a last glass of beer from the barrel in the 
scullery, and made his way up to bed, where Mrs Jones was already snoring. 

As soon as the light in the bedroom went out there was a stirring and a 
fluttering all through the farm buildings. Word had gone round during the day 
that old Major, the prize Middle White boar, had had a strange dream on the 
previous night and wished to communicate it to the other animals. It had been 
agreed that they should all meet in the big bam as soon as Mr Jones was safely 
out of the way. Old Major (so he was always called, though the name under 
which he had been exhibited was Willingdon Beauty) was so highly regarded 
on the farm that everyone was quite ready to lose an hour’s sleep in order to 
hear what he had to say. 

At one end of the big barn, on a sort of raised platform, Major was already 
ensconced on his bed of straw, under a lantern which hung from a beam. He 
was twelve years old and had lately grown rather stout, but he was still a 
majestic-looking pig, with a wise and benevolent appearance in spite of the fact 
that his tushes had never been cut. Before long the other animals began to 
arrive and make themselves comfortable after their different fashions. First 
came the three dogs. Bluebell, Jessie, and Pincher, and then the pigs who 
settled down in the straw immediately in front of the platform. The hens 
perched themselves on the window-sills, the pigeons fluttered up to the rafters, 
the sheep and cows lay down behind the pigs and began to chew the cud. The 
two cart-horses. Boxer and Clover, came in together, walking very slowly and 
setting down their vast hairy hoofs with great care lest there should be some 
small animal concealed in the straw. Clover was a stout motherly mare 
approaching middle life, who had never quite got her figure back after her 
fourth foal. Boxer was an enormous beast, nearly eighteen hands high, and as 
strong as any two ordinary horses put together. A white stripe down his nose 
gave him a somewhat stupid appearance, and in fact he was not of first-rate 
intelligence, but he was universally respected for his steadiness of character 
and tremendous powers of work. After the horses came Muriel, the white goat, 
and Benjamin, the donkey. Benjamin was the oldest animal on the farm, and 
the worst tempered. He seldom talked, and when he did it was usually to make 
some cynical remark— for instance, he would say that God had given him a tail 



Animal Farm 


*4 

to keep the flies off, but that he would sooner have had no tail and no flies. 
Alone among the animals on the farm he never laughed. If asked why, he 
would say that he saw nothing to laugh at. Nevertheless, without openly 
admitting it, he was devoted to Boxer; the two of them usually spent their 
Sundays together in the small paddock beyond the orchard, grazing side by 
side and never speaking. 

The two horses had just lain down when a brood of ducklings, which had 
lost their mother, filed into the barn, cheeping feebly and wandering from side 
to side to find some place where they would not be trodden on. Clover made a 
sort of wall round them with her great foreleg, and the ducklings nestled down 
inside it, and promptly fell asleep. At the last moment Mollie, the foolish, 
pretty white mare who drew Mr Jones’s trap, came mincing daintily in, 
chewing at a lump of sugar. She took a place near the front and began flirting 
her white mane, hoping to draw attention to the red ribbons it was plaited 
with. Last of all came the cat, who looked round, as usual, for the warmest 
place, and finally squeezed herself in between Boxer and Clover; there she 
purred contentedly throughout Major’s speech without listening to a word of 
what he was saying. 

All the animals were now present except Moses, the tame raven, who slept 
on a perch behind the back door. When Major saw that they had all made 
themselves comfortable and were waiting attentively, he cleared his throat and 
began: 

‘Comrades, you have heard already about the strange dream that I had last 
night. But I will come to the dream later. I have something else to say first. I do 
not think, comrades, that I shall be with you for many months longer, and 
before I die, I feel it my duty to pass on to you such wisdom as I have acquired. 
I have had a long life, I have had much time for thought as I lay alone in my 
stall, and I think I may say that I understand the nature of life on this earth as 
well as any animal now living. It is about this that I wish to speak to you. 

‘Now, comrades, what is the nature of this life of ours? Let us face it: our 
lives are miserable, laborious, and short. We are bom, we are given just so 
much food as will keep the breath in our bodies, and those of us who are 
capable of it are forced to work to the last atom of our strength; and the very 
instant that our usefulness has come to an end we are slaughtered with hideous 
cruelty. No animal in England knows the meaning of happiness or leisure after 
he is a year old. No animal in England is free. The life of an animal is misery 
and slavery: that is the plain truth. 

‘But is this simply part of the order of nature? Is it because this land of ours 
is so poor that it cannot afford a decent life to those who dwell upon it? No, 
comrades, a thousand times no! The soil of England is fertile, its climate is 
good, it is capable of affording food in abundance to an enormously greater 
number of animals than now inhabit it. This single farm of ours would support 
a dozen horses, twenty cows, hundreds of sheep-and all of them living in a 
comfort and a dignity that are now almost beyond our imagining. Why then do 
we continue in this miserable condition? Because nearly the whole of the 
produce of our labour is stolen from us by human beings. There, comrades, is 



Animal Farm j y 

the answer to all our problems. It is summed up in a single word-Man. Man is 
the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause 
of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever. 

‘Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not 
give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run 
fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to 
work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from 
starving, and the rest he keeps for himself. Our labour tills the soil, our dung 
fertilizes it, and yet there is not one of us that owns more than his bare skin. 
Y ou cows that I see before me, how many thousands of gallons of milk have 
you given during this last year? And what has happened to that milk which 
should have been breeding up sturdy calves? Every drop of it has gone down 
the throats of our enemies. And you hens, how many eggs have you laid this 
year, and how many of those eggs ever hatched into chickens? The rest have all 
gone to market to bring in money for Jones and his men. And you, Clover, 
where are those four foals you bore, who should have been the support and 
pleasure of your old age? Each was sold at a year old-you will never see one of 
them again. In return for your four confinements and all your labour in the 
field, what have you ever had except your bare rations and a stall? 

‘And even the miserable lives we lead are not allowed to reach their natural 
span. For myself I do not grumble, for I am one of the lucky ones. I am twelve 
years old and have had over four hundred children. Such is the natural life of a 
pig. But no animal escapes the cruel knife in the end. You young porkers who 
are sitting in front of me, every one of you will scream your lives out at the 
block within a year. To that horror we all must come-cows, pigs, hens, sheep, 
everyone. Even the horses and the dogs have no better fate. You, Boxer, the 
very day that those great muscles of yours lose their power, Jones will sell you 
to the knacker, who will cut your throat and boil you down for the fox-hounds. 
As for the dogs, when they grow old and toothless, Jones ties a brick round 
their necks and drowns them in the nearest pond. 

T$ it not crystal clear, then, comrades, that all the evils of this life of ours 
spring from the tyranny of human beings? Only get rid of Man, and the 
produce of our labour would be our own. Almost overnight we could become 
rich and free. What then must we do? Why, work night and day, body and soul, 
for the overthrow of the human race! That is my message to you, comrades: 
Rebellion! I do not know when that Rebellion will come, it might be in a week 
or in a hundred years, but I know, as surely as I see this straw beneath my feet, 
that sooner or later justice will be done. Fix your eyes on that, comrades, 
throughout the short remainder of your lives! And above all, pass on this 
message of mine to those who come after you, so that future generations shall 
carry on the struggle until it is victorious. 

‘And remember, comrades, your resolution must never falter. No argument 
must lead you astray. Never listen when they tell you that Man and the animals 
have a common interest, that the prosperity of the one is the prosperity of the 
others. Itis all lies. Man serves the interests of no creature except himself. And 
among us animals let there be perfect unity, perfect comradeship in the 



1 6 Animal Farm 

struggle. All men are enemies. All animals are comrades.’ 

At this moment there was a tremendous uproar. While Major was speaking 
four large rats had crept out of their holes and were sitting on their hind- 
quarters listening to him. The dogs had suddenly caught sight of them, and it 
was only by a swift dash for their holes that the rats saved their lives. Major 
raised his trotter for silence. 

‘Comrades,’ he said, ‘here is a point that must be settled. The wild creatures, 
such as rats and rabbits-are they our friends or our enemies? Let us put it to 
the vote. I propose this question to the meeting: Are rats comrades?’ 

The vote was taken at once, and it was agreed by an overwhelming majority 
that rats were comrades. There were only four dissentients, the three dogs and 
the cat, who was afterwards discovered to have voted on both sides. Major 
continued: 

T have little more to say. I merely repeat, remember always your duty of 
enmity towards Man and all his ways. Whatever goes upon two legs, is an 
enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. And remember 
also that in fighting against Man, we must not come to resemble him. Even 
when you have conquered him, do not adopt his vices. No animal must ever 
live in a house, or sleep in a bed, or wear clothes, or drink alcohol, or smoke 
tobacco, or touch money, or engage in trade. All the habits of Man are evil. 
And, above all, no animal must ever tyrannize over 'his own kind. Weak or 
strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers. No animal must ever kill any other 
animal. All animals are equal. 

‘And now, comrades, I will tell you about my dream of last night. I cannot 
describe that dream to you. It was a dream of the earth as it will be when Man 
has vanished. But it reminded me of something that I had long forgotten. 
Many years ago, when I was a little pig, my mother and the other sows used to 
sing an old song of which they knew only the tune and the three first words. I 
had known that tune in my infancy, but it had long since passed out of my 
mind. Last night, however, it came back to me in my dream. And what is more, 
the words of the song also came back-words, I am certain, which were sung by 
the animals of long ago and have been lost to memory for generations. I will 
sing you that song now, comrades. I am old and my voice is hoarse, but when I 
have taught you the tune, you can sing it better for yourselves. It is called 
“Beasts of England”,’ 

Old Major cleared his throat and began to sing. As he had said, his voice was 
hoarse, but he sang well enough, and it was a stirring tune, something between 
‘Clementine’ and ‘La Cucuracha’. The words ran: 

Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland, 

Beasts of every land and clime, 

Hearken to my joyful tidings 
Of the golden future time. 

Soon or late the day is ccHning, 

Tyrant Man shall be o’erthrown, 

, And the fruitful fields of England 

Shall be trod by beasts alone. 



Animal Farm 


*7 

Rings shall vanish from our noses. 

And the harness from our back, 

Bit and spur shall rust forever. 

Cruel whips no more shall crack. 

Riches more than mind can picture, 

Wheat and barley, oats and hay, 

Clover, beans, and mangel-wurzels 
Shall be ours upon that day. 

Bright will shine the fields of England, 

Purer shall its water be. 

Sweeter yet shall blow its breezes 
On the day that sets us free. 

For that day we all must labour. 

Though we die before it break. 

Cows and horses, geese and turkeys, 

All must toil for freedom’s sake. 

Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland, 

Beasts of every land and clime. 

Hearken well and spread my tidings 
Of the golden future time 

The singing of this song threw the animals into the wildest excitement. 
Almost before Major had reached the end, they had begun singing it for 
themselves. Even the stupidest of them had already picked up the tune and a 
few of the words, and as for the clever ones, such as the pigs and dogs, they had 
the entire song by heart within a few minutes. And then, after a few 
preliminary tries, the whole farm burst out into ‘Beasts of England’ in 
tremendous unison. The cows lowed it, the dogs whined it, the sheep bleated 
it, the horses whinnied it, the ducks quacked it. They were so delighted with 
the song that they sang it right through five times in succession, and might 
have continued singing it all night if they had not been interrupted. 

Unfortunately, the uproar awoke Mr Jones, who sprang out of bed, feeling 
sure that there was a fox in the yard. He seized the gun which always stood in a 
corner of his bedroom, and let fly a charge of number 6 shot into the darkness. 
The pellets buried themselves in the wall of the barn and the meeting broke up 
hurriedly. Everyone fled to his own sleeping place. The birds jumped on to 
their perches, the animals settled down in the straw, and the whole farm was 
asleep in a moment. 


2 


Three nights later old Major died peacefully in his sleep. His body was buried 
at the foot of the orchard. 

This was early in March. During the next three months there was much 



1 8 Animal Farm 

secret activity. Major’s speech had given to the more intelligent animals on the 
farm a completely new outlook on life. They did not know when the Rebellion 
predicted by Major would take place, they had no reason for thinking that it 
would be within their own lifetime, but they saw clearly that it was their duty 
to prepare for it. The work of teaching and organizing the others fell naturally 
upon the pigs, who were generally recognized as being the cleverest of the 
animals. Pre-eminent among the pigs were two young boars named Snowball 
and Napoleon, whom Mr Jones was breeding up for sale. Napoleon was a 
large, rather fierce-looking Berkshire boar, the only Berkshire on the farm, not 
much of a talker, but with a reputation for getting his own way. Snowball was a 
more vivacious pig than Napoleon, quicker in speech and more inventive, but 
was not considered to have the same depth of character. All the other male pigs 
on the farm were porkers. The best known among them was a small fat pig 
named Squealer, with very round cheeks, twinkling eyes, nimble movements, 
and a shrill voice. He was a brilliant talker, and when he was arguing some 
difficult point he had a way of skipping from side to side and whisking his tail 
which was somehow very persuasive. The others said of Squealer that he could 
turn black into white. 

These three had elaborated old Major’s teachings into a complete system of 
thought, to which they gave the name of Animalism. Several nights a week, 
after Mr Jones was asleep, they held secret meetings in the barn and 
expounded the principles of Animalism to the others. At the beginning they 
met with such stupidity and apathy. Some of the animals talked of the duty of 
loyalty to Mr Jones, whom they referred to as ‘Master’, or made elementary 
remarks such as ‘Mr Jones feeds us. If he were gone, we should starve to 
death.’ Others asked such questions as ‘Why should we care what happens 
after we are dead?’ or ‘If this rebellion is to happen anyway, what difference 
does it make whether we workfor it or not?’, and the pigs had great difficulty in 
making them see that this was contrary to the spirit of Animalism. The 
stupidest questions of all were asked by Mollie, the white mare. The very first 
question she asked Snowball was: ‘Will there still be sugar after the Rebellion?’ 

‘No,’ said Snowball firmly. ‘We have no means of making sugar on this farm 
Besides, you do not need sugar. You will have all the oats and hay you want.’ 

‘And shall I still be allowed to wear ribbons in my mane?’ asked Mollie. 

‘Comrade,’ said Snowball, ‘those ribbons that you are so devoted to are the 
badge of slavery. Can you not understand that liberty is worth more than 
ribbons?’ 

Mollie agreed, but she did not sound very convinced. 

The pigs had an even harder struggle to counteract the lies put about by 
Moses, the tame raven. Moses, who was Mr Jones’s especial pet, was a spy and 
a tale-bearer, but he was also a clever talker. He claimed to know of the 
existence of a mysterious country called Sugarcandy Mountain, to which all 
animals went when they died. It was situated somewhere up in the sky, a little 
distance beyond the clouds, Moses said. In Sugarcandy Mountain it was 
Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump 
sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges. The animals hated Moses because 



Animal Farm 


19 

he told tales and did not work., but some of them believed in Sugarcandy 
Mountain, and the pigs had to argue very hard to persuade them that there was 
no such place. 

Their most faithful disciples were the two carthouses, Boxer and Clover. 
These two had great difficulty in thinking anything out for themselves, but 
having once accepted the pigs as their teachers, they absorbed everything that 
they were told, and passed it on to the other animals by simple arguments. 
They were unfailing in their attendance at the secret meetings in the barn, and 
led the singing of ‘Beasts of England’, with which the meetings always ended. 

Now, as it turned out, the Rebellion was achieved much earlier and more 
easily than anyone had expected. In the past years Mr Jones, although a hard 
master, had been a capable farmer, but of late he had fallen on evil days. He 
had become much disheartened after losing money in a lawsuit, and had taken 
to drinking more than was good for him. For whole days at a time he would 
lounge in his Windsor chair in the kitchen, reading the newspapers, drinking, 
and occasionally feeding Moses on crusts of bread soaked in beer. His men 
were idle and dishonest, the fields were full of weeds, the buildings wanted 
roofing, the hedges were neglected, and the animals were underfed. 

June came and the hay was almost ready for cutting. On Midsummer’s Eve, 
which was a Saturday, Mr Jones went into Willingdon and got so drunk at the 
Red Lion that he did not come back till midday on Sunday. The men had 
milked the cows in the early morning and then had gone out rabbiting, without 
bothering to feed the animals. When Mr Jones got back he immediately went 
to sleep on the drawing-room sofa with the News of the World over his face, so 
that when evening came, the animals were still unfed. At last they could stand 
it no longer. One of the cows broke in the door of the store-shed with her horns 
and all the animals began to help themselves from the bins. It was just then 
that Mr Jones woke up. The next moment he and his four men were in the 
store-shed with whips in their hands, lashing out in all directions. This was 
more than the hungry animals could bear. With one accord, though nothing of 
the kind had been planned beforehand, they flung themselves upon their 
tormentors. Jones and his men suddenly found themselves being butted and 
kicked from all sides. The situation was quite out of their control. They had 
never seen animals behave like this before, and this sudden uprising of 
creatures whom they were used to thrashing and maltreating just as they chose, 
frightened them almost out of their wits. After only a moment or two they gave 
up trying to defend themselves and took to their heels. A minute later all five of 
them were in full flight down the cart-track that led to the main road, with the 
animals pursuing them in triumph. 

Mrs Jones looked out of the bedroom window, saw what was happening, 
hurriedly flung a few possessions into a carpet bag, and slipped out of the farm 
by another way. Moses sprang off his perch and flapped after her, croaking 
loudly. Meanwhile the animals had chased Jones and his men out on tothe 
road and slammed the five-barred gate behind them. And so, almost before 
they knew what was happening, the Rebellion had been successfully carried 
through: Jones was expelled, and the Manor Farm was theirs. 



20 


Animal Farm 


For the first few minutes the animals could hardly believe in their good 
fortune. Their first act was to gallop in a body right round the boundaries of 
the farm, as though to make quite sure that no human being was hiding 
anywhere upon it; then they raced back to the farm buildings to wipe out the 
last traces of Jones’s hated reign. The harness-room at the end of the stables 
was broken open; the bits, the nose-rings, the dog-chains, the cruel knives with 
which Mr Jones had been used to castrate the pigs and lambs, were all flung 
down the well. The reins, the halters, the blinkers, the degrading nosebags, 
were thrown on to the rubbish fire which was burning m the yard. So were the 
whips. All the animals capered with joy when they saw the whips going up in 
flames. Snowball also threw on to the fire the ribbons with which the horses’ 
manes and tails had usually been decorated on market days. 

‘Ribbons,’ he said, ‘should be considered as clothes, which are the mark of a 
human being. All animals should go naked.’ 

When Boxer heard this he fetched the small straw hat which he wore in 
summer to keep the flies out of his ears, and flung it on to the fire with the rest. 

In a very little while the animals had destroyed everything that reminded 
them of Mr Jones. Napoleon then led them back to the store-shed and served 
out a double ration of corn to everybody, with two biscuits for each dog. Then 
they sang ‘Beasts of England’ from end to end seven times running, and after 
that they settled down for the night and slept as they had never slept before. 

But they woke at dawn as usual, and suddenly remembering the glorious 
thing that had happened, they all Taced out into the pasture together. A little 
way down the pasture there was a knoll that commanded a view of most of the 
farm. The animals rushed to the top of it and gazed round them in the clear 
morning light. Yes, it was theirs-everything that they could see was theirs! In 
the ecstasy of that thought they gambolled round and round, they hurled 
themselves into the air in great leaps of excitement. They rolled in the dew, 
they cropped mouthfuls of the sweet summer grass, they kicked up clods of the 
black earth and snuffed its rich scent. Then they made a tour of inspection of 
the whole farm and surveyed with speechless admiration the ploughland, the 
hayfield, the orchard, the pool, the spinney. It was as though they had never 
seen these things before, and even now they could hardly believe that it was all 
their own. 

Then they filed back to the farm buildings and halted in silence outside the 
door of the farmhouse. That was theirs too, but they were frightened to go 
inside. After a moment, however. Snowball and Napoleon butted the door 
open with their shoulders and the animals entered in single file, walking with 
the utmost care for fear of disturbing anything. They tiptoed from room to 
room, afraid to speak above a whisper and gazing with a kind of awe at the 
unbelievable luxury, at the beds with their feather mattresses, the looking- 
glasses, the horsehair sofa, the Brussels carpet, the lithograph of Queen 
Victoria over the drawing-room mantelpiece. They were just coming down the 
stairs when Mollie was discovered to be missing. Going back, the others found 
that she had remained behind in the best bedroom. She had taken a piece of 
blue ribbon from Mrs Jones’s dressing-table, and was holding it against her 



Animal Farm 


21 


shoulder and admiring herself in the glass in a very foolish manner. The others 
reproached her sharply, and they went outside. Some hams hanging in the 
kitchen were taken out for burial, and the barrel of beer in the scullery was 
stove in with a kick from Boxer’s hoof, otherwise nothing in the house was 
touched. A unanimous resolution was passed on the spot that the farmhouse 
should be preserved as a museum. All were agreed that no animal must ever 
live there. 

The animals had their breakfast, and then Snowball and Napoleon called 
them together again. 

‘Comrades,’ said Snowball, ‘it is half past six and we have a long day before 
us. Today we begin the hay harvest. But there is another matter that must be 
attended to first.’ 

The pigs now revealed that during the past three months they had taught 
themselves to read and write from an old spelling book which had belonged to 
Mr Jones’s children and which had been thrown on the rubbish heap. 
Napoleon sent for pots of black and white paint and led the way down to the 
five-barred gate that gave on to the main road. Then Snowball (for it was 
Snowball who was best at writing) took a brush between the two knuckles of 
his trotter, painted out manor farm from the top bar of the gate and in its place 
painted animal farm. This was to be the name of the farm from now onwards. 
After this they went back to the farm buildings, where Snowball and Napoleon 
sent for a ladder which they caused to be set against the end wall of the big 
bam. They explained that by their studies of the past three months the pigs 
had succeeded in reducing the principles of Animalism to Seven Command- 
ments. These Seven Commandments would now be inscribed on the wall; 
they would form an unalterable law by which all the animals on Animal Farm 
must live for ever after. With some difficulty (for it is not easy for a pig to 
balance himself on a ladder) Snowball climbed up and set to work, with 
Squealer a few rungs below him holding the paint-pot. The Commandments 
were written on the tarred wall- in great white letters that could be read thirty 
yards away. They ran thus: 

THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS 

1 . Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. 

2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. 

3. No animal shall wear clothes. 

4. No animal shall sleep in a bed. 

5. No animal shall drink alcohol. 

6. No animal shall kill any other animal. 

7. All animals are equal. 

It was very neatly written, and except that ‘friend’ was written ‘fremd’ and 
one of the ‘S Y was the wrong way round, the spelling was correct all the way 
through. Snowball read it aloud for the benefit of the others. All the animal s 
nodded in complete agreement, and the cleverer ones at once began to leaSm the 
Commandments by hem. 



22 


Animal Farm 


‘Now, comrades,’ said Snowball, throwing down the paint-brush, ‘to the 
hayfield! Let us make it a point of honour to get in the harvest more quickly 
than Jones and his men could do.’ 

But at this moment the three cows, who had seemed uneasy for some time 
past, set up a loud lowing. They had not been milked for twenty-four hours, 
and their udders were almost bursting. After a little thought, the pigs sent for 
buckets and milked the cows fairly successfully, their trotters being well 
adapted to this task. Soon there were five buckets of frothing creamy milk at 
which many of the animals looked with considerable interest. 

‘What is going to happen to all that milk?’ said someone. 

‘Jones used sometimes to mix some of it in our mash,’ said one of the hens. 

‘Never mind the milk, comrades!’ cried Napoleon, placing himself in front 
of the buckets. ‘That will be attended to. The harvest is more important. 
Comrade Snowball will lead the way. I shall follow in a few minutes. Forward, 
comrades! The hay is waiting.’ 

So the animals trooped down to the hayfield to begin the harvest, and when 
they came back in the evening it was noticed that the milk had disappeared. 


3 


How they toiled and sweated to get the hay in! But their efforts were rewarded, 
for the harvest was an even bigger success than they had hoped. 

Sometimes the work was hard; the implements had been designed for 
human beings and not for animals, and it was a great drawback that no animal 
was able to use any tool that involved standing on his hind legs. But the pigs 
were so clever that they could think of a way round every difficulty. As for the 
horses, they knew every inch of the field, and in fact understood the business of 
mowing and raking far better than Jones and his men had ever done. The pigs 
did not actually work, but directed and supervised the others. With their 
superior knowledge it was natural that they should assume the leadership. 
Boxer and Clover would harness themselves to the cutter or the horse-rake (no 
bits or reins were needed in these days, of course) and tramp steadily round 
and round the field with a pig walking behind and calling out ‘Gee up, 
comrade!’ or ‘Whoa back, comrade!’ as the case might be. And every animal 
down to the humblest worked at turning the hay and gathering it. Even the 
ducks and hens toiled to and fro all day in the sun, carrying tiny wisps of hay in 
their beaks. In the end they finished the harvest in two days’ less time than it 
had usually taken Jones and his men. Moreover, it was the biggest harvest that 
the farm had ever seen. There was no wastage whatever; the hens and ducks 
with their sharp eyes had gathered up the very last stalk. And not an animal on 
the farm had stolen so much as a mouthful. 



Animal Farm 


23 

All through that summer the work of the farm went like clockwork. The 
animals were happy as they had never conceived it possible to be. Every 
mouthful of food was an acute positive pleasure, now that it was truly their 
own food, produced by themselves and for themselves, not doled out to them 
by a grudging master. With the worthless parasitical human beings gone, there 
was more for everyone to eat. There was more leisure too, inexperienced 
though the animals were. They met with many difficulties-for instance, later 
in the year, when they harvested the corn, they had to tread it out in the ancient 
style and blow away the chaff with their breath, since the farm possessed no 
threshing machine-but the pigs with their cleverness and Boxer with his 
tremendous muscles always pulled them through. Boxer was the admiration of 
everybody. He had been a hard worker even in Jones’s time, but now he 
seemed more like three horses than one,* there were days when the entire work 
of the farm seemed to rest upon his mighty shoulders. From morning to night 
he was pushing and pulling, always at the spot where the work was hardest. He 
had made an arrangement with one of the cockerels to call him in the mornings 
half an hour earlier than anyone else, and would put in some volunteer labour 
at whatever seemed to be most needed, before the regular day’s work began. 
His answer to every problem, every setback, was T will work harderF-which 
he had adopted as his personal motto. 

But everyone worked according to his capacity. The hens and ducks, for 
instance, saved five bushels, of corn at the harvest by gathering up the stray 
grains. Nobody stole, nobody grumbled over his rations, the quarrelling and 
biting and jealousy which had been normal features of life in the old days had 
almost disappeared. Nobody shirked— or almost nobody. Mollie, it was true, 
was not good at getting up in the morning, and had a way of leaving work early 
on the ground that there was a stone in her hoof. And the behaviour of the cat 
was somewhat peculiar. It was soon noticed that when there was work to be 
done the cat could never be found. She would vanish for hours on end, and 
then reappear at meal-times, or in the evening after work was over, as though 
nothing had happened. But she always made such excellent excuses, and 
purred so affectionately, that it was impossible not to believe in her good 
intentions. Old Benjamin, the donkey, seemed quite unchanged since the 
Rebellion. He did his work in the same slow obstinate way as he had done it in 
Jones’s time, never shirking, and never volunteering for extra work either. 
About the Rebellion and its results he would express no opinion. When asked 
whether he was not happier now that Jones was gone, he would say only 
‘Donkeys live a long time. None of you has ever seen a dead donkey,’ and the 
others had to be content with this cryptic answer. 

On Sundays there was no work. Breakfast was an hour later than usual, and 
after breakfast there was a ceremony which was observed every week without 
fail. First came the hoisting of the flag. Snowball had found in the harness- 
room an old green tablecloth of Mrs Jones’s and had painted on it a hoof and a 
horn in white. This was run up the flagstaff in the farmhouse garden every 
Sunday, morning. The flag was green. Snowball explained, to represent the 
green fields of Engl and ,- while the hoof and hom signified die future Republic 



Animal Farm 


24 

of the Animals which would arise when the human race had been finally 
overthrown. After the hoisting of the flag all the animals trooped into the big 
barn_for a general assembly which was known as the Meeting. Here the work of 
the coming week was planned out and resolutions were put forward and 
debated. It was always the pigs who put forward the resolutions. The other 
animals understood how to vote, but could never think of any resolutions of 
their own. Snowball and Napoleon were by far the most active in the debates. 
But it was noticed that these two were never in agreement: whatever 
suggestion either of them made, the other could be counted on to oppose it. 
Even when it was resolved-a thing no one could object to in itself-to set aside 
a small paddock behind the orchard as a home of rest for animals who were past 
work, there was a stormy debate over the correct retiring age for each class of 
animal. The meeting always ended with the singing of ‘Beasts of England’, and 
the afternoon was given up to recreation. 

The pigs had set aside the harness-room as a headquarters for themselves. 
Here, in the evening, they studied blacksmithing, carpentering, and other 
necessary arts from books which they had brought out of the farmhouse. 
Snowball also busied himself with organizing the other animals into what he 
called Animal Committees. He was indefatigable at this. He formed the Egg 
Production Committee for the hens, the Clean Tails League for the cows, the 
Wild Comrades’ Re-education Committee (the object of this was to tame the 
rats and rabbits), the Whiter Wool Movement for the sheep, and various 
others, besides instituting classes in reading and writing. On the whole, these 
projects were a failure. The attempt to tame the wild creatures, for instance, 
broke down almost immediately. They continued to behave very much as 
before, and when treated with generosity, simply took advantage of it. The cat 
joined the Re-education Committee and was very active in it for some days. 
She was seen one day sitting on a roof and talking to some sparrows who were 
just out of her reach. She was telling them that all animals were now comrades 
and that any sparrow who chose could come and perch on her paw; but the 
sparrows kept their distance. 

The reading and writing classes, however, were a great success. By the 
autumn almost every animal on the farm was literate in some degree. 

As for the pigs, they could already read and write perfectly. The dogs 
learned to read fairly well, but were not interested in reading any thin g except 
the Seven Commandments. Muriel, the goat, could read somewhat better than 
the dogs, and sometimes used to read to the others in the evenings from scraps 
of newspaper which she found on the rubbish heap. Benjamin could read as 
well as any pig, but never exercised his faculty. So far as he knew, he said, there 
was nothing worth reading. Clover learnt the whole alphabet, but could not 
put words together. Boxer could not get beyond the letter D. He would trace 
out A, B, C, D, in the dust with his great hoof, and then would stand staring at 
the letters with his ears b ack, sometimes shaking his forelock, trying with all 
his might to remember what came next and never succeeding. On several 
occasions, indeed, he did learn E, F, G, H, and by the time he knew them, it 
was always discovered that he had forgotten A, B, C, and D. Finally he decided 



Animal Farm 25 

to be content with the first four letters, and used to write them out once or 
twice every day to refresh his memory. Mollie refused to learn any but the six 
letters which spelt her own name. She would form these very neatly out of 
pieces of twig, and would then decorate them with a flower or two and walk 
round them admiring them. 

None of the other animals on the farm could get further than the letter A. It 
was also found that the stupider animals, such as the sheep, hens, and ducks, 
were unable to learn the Seven Commandments by heart. After much thought 
Snowball declared that the Seven Commandments could in effect be reduced 
to a single maxim, namely: ‘Four legs good, two legs bad.’ This, he said, 
contained the essential principle of Animalism. Whoever had thoroughly 
grasped it would be safe from human influences. The birds at first objected, 
since it seemed to them that they also had two legs, but Snowball proved to 
them that this was not so. 

‘A bird’s wing, comrades,’ he said, ‘is an organ of propulsion and not of 
manipulation. It should therefore be regarded as a leg. The distinguishing 
mark of Man is the hand, the instrument with which he does all his mischief.’ 

The birds did not understand Snowball’s long words, but they accepted his 
explanation, and all the humbler animals set to work to learn the new maxim 
by heart, four legs good, two legs bad, was inscribed on the end wall of the 
barn, above the Seven Commandments and in bigger letters. When they had 
once got it by heart, the sheep developed a great liking for this maxim, and 
often as they lay in the field they would all start bleating ‘Four legs good, two 
legs bad! Four legs good, two legs bad!’ and keep it up for hours on end, never 
growing tired of it. 

Napoleon took no interest in Snowball’s committees. He said that the 
education of the young was more important than anything that could be done 
for those who were already grown up. It happened that Jessie and Bluebell had 
both whelped soon after the hay harvest, giving birth between them to nine 
sturdy puppies. As soon as they were weaned, Napoleon took them away from 
their mothers, saying that he would make himself responsible for their 
education. He took them up into a loft which could only be reached by a ladder 
from the harness-room, and there kept them in such seclusion that the rest of 
the farm soon forgot their existence. 

The mystery of where the milk went to was soon cleared up. It was mixed 
every day into the pigs’ mash. The early apples were now ripening, and the 
grass of the orchard was littered with windfalls. The animals had assumed as a 
matter of course that these would be shared out equally; one day, however, the 
order went forth that all the windfalls were to be collected and brought to the 
harness-room for the use of the pigs. At this some of the other animals 
murmured, but it was no use. All the pigs were in full agreement on this point, 
even Snowball and Napoleon. Squealer was sent to make the necessary 
explanation to the others. 

‘Comrades!’ he cried. ‘You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing 
this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike mUfe and 
apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to 



26 


Animal Farm 


preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, 
comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. 
We pigs are brain-workers. The whole management and organization of this 
farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for 
your sake that we drink that milk and. eat those apples. Do you know what 
would happen if we pigs failed in our duty? Jones would come back! Yes, Jones 
would come back! Surely, comrades,’ cried Squealer almost pleadingly, 
skipping from side to side and whisking his tail, ‘surely there is no one among 
you who wants to see Jones come back?’- 
Now if there was one thing that the animals were completely certain of, it 
was that they did not want Jones back. When it was put to them in this light,, 
they had no more to say. The importance of keeping the pigs in good health 
was all too obvious. So it was agreed without further argument that the milk 
and the windfall apples (and also the main crop of apples when they ripened) 
should be reserved for the pigs alone. 


4 


By the late summer the news of what had happened on Animal Farm had 
spread across half the country Every day Snowball and Napoleon sent out 
flights of pigeons whose instructions were to mingle with the ammals on 
neighbouring farms, tell them the story of the Rebellion, and teach them the 
tune of ‘Beasts of England’. 

Most of this time Mr Jones had spent sitting in the taproom of the Red Lion 
at Willingdon, complaining to anyone who would listen to the monstrous 
injustice he had suffered in being turned out of his property by a pack of good- 
for-nothing animals. The other farmers sympathized in principle, but they did 
not at first give him much help. At heart, each of them was secretly wondering 
whether he could not somehow turn Jones’s misfortune to his own advantage. 
It was lucky that the owners of the two farms which adjoined Animal Farm 
were on permanently bad terms. One of them, which was named Foxwood, 
was a large, neglected, old-fashioned farm, much overgrown by woodland, 
with all its pastures worn out and its hedges in a disgraceful condition. Its 
owner, Mr Pilkington, was an easy-going gentleman farmer who spent most of 
his time in fishing or hunting according to the season. The other farm, which 
was called Pinchfield, was smaller and better kept. Its owner was a Mr 
Frederick, a tough, shrewd man, perpetually involved in lawsuits and with a 
name for driving hard bargains. These two disliked each other so much that it 
was difficult for them to come to any agreement, even in defence of their own 
interests. 

Nevertheless they were both thoroughly frightened by the rebellion on 



Animal Farm 27 

Animal Farm, and very anxious to prevent their own animals from learning too 
much about it. At first they pretended to laugh to scorn the idea of animals 
managing a farm for themselves. The whole thing would be over in a fortnight, 
they said. They put it about that the animals on the Manor Farm (they insisted 
on calling it the Manor Farm; they would not tolerate the name ‘Animal 
Farm’) were perpetually fighting among themselves and were also rapidly 
starving to death. When time passed and the animals had evidently not starved 
to death, Frederick and Pilkington changed their tune and began to talk of the 
terrible wickedness that now flourished on Animal Farm. It was given out that 
the animals there practised cannibalism, tortured one another with red-hot 
horseshoes, and had their females in common. This was what came of rebelling 
against the laws of Nature, Frederick and Pilkington said. 

However, these stories were never fully believed. Rumours of a wonderful 
farm, where the human beings had been turned out and the animals managed 
their own affairs, continued to circulate in vague and distorted forms, and 
throughout that year a wave of rebelliousness ran through the countryside. 
Bulls which had always been tractable suddenly turned savage, sheep broke 
down hedges and devoured the clover, cows kicked the pail over, hunters 
refused their fences and shot their riders on to the other side. Above all, the 
tune and even the words of ‘Beasts of England’ were known everywhere. It had 
spread with astonishing speed. The human beings could not contain their rage 
when they heard this song, though they pretended to think it merely 
ridiculous. They could not understand, they said, how even animals could 
bring themselves to sing such contemptible rubbish. Any animal caught 
singing it was given a flogging on the spot. And yet the song was irrepressible. 
The blackbirds whistled it in the hedges, the pigeons cooed it in the elms, it got 
into the din of the smithies and the time of the church bells. And when the 
human beings listened to it, they secretly trembled, hearing in it a prophecy of 
their future doom. 

Early in October, when the corn was cut and stacked and some of it was 
already threshed, a flight of pigeons came whirling through the air and alighted 
in the yard of Animal Farm in the wildest excitement. Jones and all his men, 
with half a dozen others from Foxwood and Pinchfield, had entered the five- 
barred gate and were coming up the cart-track that led to the farm. They were 
all carrying sticks, except Jones, who was marching ahead with a gun in his 
hands. Obviously they were going to attempt the recapture of the farm. 

This had long been expected, and all preparations had been made. 
Snowball, who had studied an old book of Julius Caesar’s campaigns which he 
had found in the farmhouse, was in charge of the defensive operations. He gave 
his orders quickly, and in a couple of minutes every animal was at his post. 

As the human beings approached the farm buildings. Snowball launched his 
first attack. All the pigeons, to the number of thirty-five, flew to and fro over 
the men’s heads and muted upon them from mid-air; and while the men were 
dealing with this, the geese, who had been hiding behind the hedge, rushed out 
and pecked viciously at the calves of their legs. However, this was only a light 
skirmishing manoeuvre, intended to create a little disorder, and die men easily 



28 


Animal Farm 


drove the geese off with their sticks. Snowball now launched his second line of 
attack. Muriel, Benjamin, and all the sheep, with Snowball at the head of them, 
rushed forward and prodded and butted the men from every side, while 
Benjamin turned round and lashed at them with his small hoofs. But once 
again the men, with their sticks and their hobnailed boots, were too strong for 
them; and suddenly, at a squeal from Snowball, which was the signal for 
retreat, all the animals turned and fled through the gateway into the yard. 

The men gave a shout of triumph. They saw, as they imagined, their 
enemies in flight, and they rushed after them in disorder. This was just what 
Snowball had intended. As soon as they were well inside the yard, the three 
horses, the three cows, and the rest of the pigs, who had been lying in ambush 
in the cowshed, suddenly emerged m their rear, cutting them off. Snowball 
now gave the signal for the charge. He himself dashed straight for Jones. Jones 
saw him coming, raised his gun, and fired. The pellets scored bloody streaks 
along Snowball’s back, and a sheep dropped dead. Without halting for an 
instant Snowball flung his fifteen stone against Jones’s legs. Jones was hurled 
into a pile of dung and his gun flew out of his hands. But the most terrifying 
spectacle of all was Boxer, rearing up on his hind legs and striking out with his 
great iron-shod hoofs like a stallion. His very first blow took a stable-lad from 
Foxwood on the skull and stretched him lifeless in the mud. At the sight, 
several men dropped their sticks and tried to run. Panic overtook them and the 
next moment all the animals together were chasing them round and round the 
yard. They were gored, kicked, bitten, trampled on. There was not an animal 
on the farm that did not take vengeance on them after his own fashion. Even 
the cat suddenly leapt off a roof on to a cowman’s shoulders and sank her claws 
in his neck, at which he yelled horribly. At a moment when the opening was 
clear, the men were glad enough to rush out of the yard and make a bolt for the 
main road. And so within five minutes of their invasion they were in 
ignominious retreat by the same way as they had come, with a flock of geese 
hissing after them and pecking at their calves all the way. 

All the men were gone except one. Back in the yard Boxer was pawing with 
his hoof at the stable-lad who lay face down in the mud, trying to turn him 
over. The boy did not stir, 

‘He is dead,’ said Boxer sorrowfully. ‘I had no intention of doing that. I 
forgot that I was wearing iron shoes. Who will believe that I did not do this on 
purpose?’ 

‘No sentimentality, comrade!’ cried Snowball, from whose wounds the 
blood was still dripping, ‘War is war. The only good human being is a dead 
one.’ 

‘I have no wish to take life, not even human life,’ repeated Boxer, and his 
eyes were full of tears, 

‘Where is Mollie?’ exclaimed somebody. 

Mollie was in fact missing. For a moment there was great alarm; it was 
feared that the men might have harmed her in some way, or even carried her off 
with them. In the end, however, she was found hiding in her stall with her head 
buried among the hay in the manger. She had taken to flight as soon as the gun 



Animal Farm 29 

went off. And when the others came back from looking for her, it was to find 
that the stable-lad, who in fact was only stunned, had already recovered and 
made off. 

The animals had now reassembled in the wildest excitement, each 
recounting his own exploits in the battle at the top of his voice. An impromptu 
celebration of the victory was held immediately. The flag was run up and 
‘Beasts of England’ was sung a number of times, then the sheep who had been 
killed was given a solemn funeral, a hawthorn bush being planted on her grave. 
At the graveside Snowball made a little speech, emphasizing the need for all 
animals to be ready to die for Animal Farm if need be. 

The animals decided unanimously to create a military decoration, ‘Animal 
Hero, First Class’, which was conferred there and then on Snowball and 
Boxer. It consisted of a brass medal (they were really some old horse-brasses 
which had been found in the harness-room), to be worn on Sundays and 
holidays. There was also ‘Animal Hero, Second Class’, which was conferred 
posthumously on the dead sheep. 

There was much discussion as to what the battle should be called. In the 
end, it was named the Battle of the Cowshed, since that was where the ambush 
had been sprung. Mr Jones’s gun had been found lying in the mud, and it was 
known that there was a supply of cartridges m the farmhouse. It was decided to 
set the gun up at the foot of the flagstaff, like a piece of artillery, and to fire it 
twice a year-once on October the twelfth, the anniversary of the Battle of the 
Cowshed, and once on Midsummer Day, the anniversary of the Rebellion. 


5 


As winter drew on, Mollie became more and more troublesome. She was late 
for work every morning and excused herself by saying that she had overslept, 
and she complained of mysterious pains, although her appetite was excellent. 
On every kind of pretext she would run away from work and go to the drinking 
pool, where she would stand foolishly gazing at her own reflection in the water. 
But there were also rumours of something more serious. One day as Mollie 
strolled blithely into the yard, flirting her long tail and chewing at a stalk of 
hay, Clover took her aside. 

‘Mollie, 5 she said, ‘I have something very serious to say to you. This 
morning I saw you looking over the hedge that divides Animal Farm from 
Foxwood. One of Mr Pilkington’s men was standing on the other side of the 
hedge. And - 1 was a long way away, but I am almost certain I saw this-he was 
talking to you and you were allowing him to stroke your nose. What does that 
mean, Mollie? 5 

‘He didn’t! I wasn’t! It isn’t true!’ cried Mollie, beginning to prance about 



Animal Farm 


30 

and paw the ground. 

‘Mollie! Look me in the face. Do you give me your word of honour that the 
man was not stroking your nose?’ 

‘It isn’t true!’ repeated Mollie, but she could not look Clover in the face, and 
the next moment she took to her heels and galloped away into the field. 

A thought struck Clover. Without saying anything to the others, she went to 
Mollie’s stall and turned over the straw with her hoof. Hidden under the straw 
was a little pile of lump sugar and several bunches of ribbon of different 
colours. 

Three days later Mollie disappeared. For some weeks nothing was known of 
her whereabouts, then the pigeons reported that they had seen her on the other 
side of Willingdon. She was between the shafts of a smart dogcart painted red 
and black, which was standing outside a public-house. A fat red-faced man in 
check breeches and gaiters, who looked like a publican, was stroking her nose 
and feeding her with sugar. Her coat was newly clipped and she wore a scarlet 
ribbon round her forelock. She appeared to be enjoying herself, so the pigeons 
said. None of the animals ever mentioned Mollie again. 

In January there came bitterly hard weather. The earth was like iron, and 
nothing could be done in the fields. Many meetings were held in the big bam, 
and the pigs occupied themselves with planning out the work of the coming 
season. It had come to be accepted that the pigs, who were manifestly cleverer 
than the other animals, should decide all questions of farm policy, though their 
decisions had to be ratified by a majority vote. This arrangement would have 
worked well enough if it had not been for the disputes between Snowball and 
Napoleon. These two disagreed at every point where disagreement was 
possible. If one of them suggested sowing a bigger acreage with barley, the 
other was certain to demand a bigger acreage of oats, and if one of them said 
that such and such a field was just right for cabbages, the other would declare 
that it was useless for anything except roots. Each had his own following, and 
there were some violent debates. At the meetings Snowball often won over the 
majority by his brilliant speeches, but Napoleon was better at canvassing 
support for himself in between times. He was especially successful with the 
sheep. Of late the sheep had taken to bleating ‘Four legs good, two legs bad’ 
both in and out of season, and they often interrupted the Meeting with this. It 
was noticed that they were especially liable to break into ‘Four legs good, two 
legs bad’ at the crucial moments in Snowball’s speeches. Snowball had made a 
close study of some back numbers of the Farmer and Stockbreeder which he 
had found in the farmhouse, and was full of plans for innovations and 
improvements. He talked learnedly about field-drains, silage, and basic slag, 
and? had worked out a complicated scheme for all the animals to drop their 
dun^afeectly in the fields, at a different spot every day, to save the labour of 
cartage. Napoleon produced no schemes of his own, but said quietly that 
Snowball’s would come to nothing, and seemed to be biding his time. But of all 
their controversies, none was so bitter as the one that took place over the 
windmill. 

In the long pasture, not far from the farm buildings , there was a small knoll 



Animal Farm 


which was the highest point on the farm. After surveying the ground. 
Snowball declared that this was just the place for a windmill, which could be 
made to operate a dynamo and supply the farm with electrical power. This 
would light the stalls and warm them in winter, and would also run a circular 
saw, a chaff-cutter, a mangel-slicer, and an electric milking machine. The 
animals had never heard of anything of this kind before (for the farm was an 
old-fashioned one and had only the most primitive machinery), and they 
listened in astonishment while Snowball conjured up pictures of fantastic 
machines which would do their work for them while they grazed at their ease in 
the fields or improved their minds with reading and conversation. 

Within a few weeks Snowball’s plans for the windmill were fully worked 
out. The mechanical details came mostly from three books which had 
belonged to Mr Jones-One Thousand Useful Things to Do About the House , 
Every Man His Own Bricklayer, and Electricity for Beginners. Snowball used as 
his study a shed which had once been used for incubators and had a smooth 
wooden floor suitable for drawing on. He was closeted there for hours at a time. 
With his books held open by a stone, and with a piece of chalk gripped between 
the knuckles of his trotter, he would move rapidly to and fro, drawing in line 
after line and uttering little whimpers of excitement. Gradually the plans grew 
into a complicated mass of cranks and cog-wheels, covering more than half the 
floor, which the other animals found completely unintelligible but very 
impressive. All of them came to look at Snowball’s drawings at least once a 
day. Even the hens and ducks came, and were at pains not to tread on the chalk 
marks. Only Napoleon held aloof. He had declared himself against the 
windmill from the start. One day, however, he arrived unexpectedly to 
examine the plans. He walked heavily round the shed, looked closely at every 
detail of the plans and snuffed at them once or twice, then stood for a little 
while contemplating them out of the corner of his eye; then suddenly he lifted 
his leg, urinated over the plans, and walked out without uttering a word. 

The whole farm was deeply divided on the subject of the windmill. 
Snowball did not deny that to build it would be a difficult business. Stone 
would have to be quarried and built up into walls, then the sails would have to 
be made and after that there would be need for dynamos and cables. (How 
these were to be procured. Snowball did not say.) But he maintained that it 
could all be done in a year. And thereafter, he declared, so much labour would 
be saved that the animals would only need to work three days a week. 
Napoleon, on the other hand, argued that the great need of the moment was to 
increase food production, and that if they wasted time on the windmill they 
would all starve to death. The animals formed themselves into two factions 
under the slogans, ‘Vote for Snowball and the three-day week’ and ‘Vote for 
Napoleon and the full manger 5 . Benjamin was the only animal who did not side 
with either faction. He refused to believe either that food would become more 
plentiful or that the windmill would save work. Windmill or no windmill, he 
said, life would go on as it had always gone on-that is, badly. 

Apart from the disputes over the windmill, there was the question of die 
defence of the farm- ft was fully realized that though the human beings had 



Animal Farm 


32 

been defeated in the Battle of the Cowshed they might make another and more 
determined attempt to recapture the farm and reinstate Mr Jones. They had all 
the more reason for doing so because the news of their defeat had spread across 
the countryside and made the animals on the neighbouring farms more restive 
than ever. As usual. Snowball and Napoleon were in disagreement. According 
to Napoleon, what the animals must do was to procure fire-arms and train 
themselves in the use of them. According to Snowball, they must send out 
more and more pigeons and stir up rebellion among the animals on the other 
farms. The one argued that if they could not defend themselves they were 
bound to be conquered, the other argued that if rebellions happened 
everywhere they would have no need to defend themselves. The animals 
listened first to Napoleon, then to Snowball, and could not make up their 
minds which was right; indeed, they always found themselves in agreement 
with the one who was speaking at the moment. 

At last the day came when Snowball’s plans were completed. At the Meeting 
on the following Sunday the question of whether or not to begin work on the 
windmill was to be put to the vote. When the animals had assembled in the big 
barn. Snowball stood up and, though occasionally interrupted by bleating 
from the sheep, set forth his reasons for advocating the building of the 
windmill. Then Napoleon stood up to reply. He said very quietly that the 
windmill was nonsense and that he advised nobody to vote for it, promptly sat 
down again; he had spoken for barely thirty seconds, and seemed almost 
indifferent as to the effect he produced. At this Snowball sprang to his feet, and 
shouting down the sheep, who had began bleating again, broke into a 
passionate appeal in favour of the windmill. Until now the animals had been 
about equally divided in their sympathies, but in a moment Snowball’s 
eloquence had carried them away. In glowing sentences he painted a picture of 
Animal Farm as it might be when sordid labour was lifted from the animals’ 
backs. His imagination had now run far beyond chaff-cutters and turnip- 
slicers. Electricity, he said, could operate threshing machines, ploughs, 
harrows, rollers, and reapers and binders, besides supplying every stall with its 
own electric light, hot and cold water, and an electric heater. By the time he 
had finished speaking, there was no doubt as to which way the vote would go. 
But just at this moment Napoleon stood up and, casting a peculiar sidelong 
look at Snowball, uttered a high-pitched whimper of a kind no one had ever 
heard him utter before. 

At this there was a terrible baying sound outside, and nine enormous dogs 
wearing brass-studded collars came bounding into the barn. They dashed 
straight for Snowball, who only sprang from his place just in time to escape 
their snapping jaws. In a moment he was out of the door and they were after 
him. Too amazed and frightened to speak, all the animals crowded through the 
door to watch the chase. Snowball was racing across the long pasture that led to 
the road. He was running as only a pig can run, but the dogs were close on his 
heels. Suddenly he slipped and it seemed certain that they had him. Then he 
was Up again, running faster than ever, then the dogs were gaining on him 
again. One of them all but closed his jaws on Snowball’s tail, but Snowball 



Animal Farm 


33 

whisked it free just in time. Then he put on an extra spurt and, with a few 
inches to spare, slipped through a hole in the hedge and was seen no more. 

Silent and terrified, the animals crept back into the barn. In a moment the 
dogs came bounding back. At first no one had been able to imagine where these 
creatures came from, but the problem was soon solved: they were the puppies 
whom Napoleon had taken away from their mothers and reared privately. 
Though not yet full-grown, they were huge dogs, and as fierce-looking as 
wolves. They kept close to Napoleon. It was noticed that they wagged their 
tails to him in the same way as the other dogs had been used to do to Mr Jones. 

Napoleon, with the dogs following him, now mounted on to the raised 
portion of the floor where Major had previously stood to deliver his speech. He 
announced that from now on the Sunday morning Meetings would come to an 
end. They were unnecessary, he said, and wasted time. In future all questions 
relating to the working of the farm would be settled by a special committee of 
pigs, presided over by himself. These would meet in private and afterwards 
communicate their decisions to the others. The animals would still assemble 
on Sunday mornings to salute the flag, sing ‘Beasts of England 5 , and receive 
their orders for the week; but there would be no more debates. 

In spite of the shock that Snowball’s expulsion had given them, the animals 
were dismayed by this announcement. Several of them would have protested if 
they could have found the right arguments. Even Boxer was vaguely troubled. 
He set his ears back, shook his forelock several times, and tried hard to marshal 
his thoughts; but in the end he could not think of anything to say. Some of the 
pigs themselves, however, were more articulate. Four young porkers in the 
front row uttered shrill squeals of disapproval, and all four of them sprang to 
their feet and began speaking at once But suddenly the dogs sitting round 
Napoleon let out deep, menacing growls, and the pigs fell silent and sat down 
again. Then the sheep broke out into a tremendous bleating of ‘Four legs good, 
two legs bad!’ which went on for nearly a quarter of an hour and put an end to 
any chance of discussion. 

Afterwards Squealer was sent round the farm to explain the new 
arrangements to the others. 

‘Comrades,’ he said, ‘I trust that every animal here appreciates the sacrifice 
that Comrade Napoleon has made in taking this extra labour upon himself. Do 
not imagine, comrade, that leadership is a pleasure! On the contrary, it is a 
deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade 
Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you 
make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong 
decisions, comrades, and then where should we be? Suppose you had decided 
to follow Snowball, with his moonshine of windmills-Snowball, who, as we 
now* know, was no better than a criminal?’ 

‘He fought bravely at the Battle of the Cowshed,’ said somebody. 

‘Bravery is not enough,* said Squealer. ‘Loyalty and obedience are more 
important. And as to the Battle Of the Cowshed, I believe the time will come 
when we shall find that Snowball’s part in it was much exaggerated. 
Discipline, comrades, iron discipline! Thai is the watchword for today. Ofie 



34 Animal Farm 

false step, and our enemies would be upon us. Surely, comrades,. you do not 
want Jones back?’ 

Once again this argument was unanswerable. Certainly the animals did not 
want Jones back; if the holding of debates on Sunday mornings was liable to 
bring him back, then the debates must stop. Boxer, who had now had time to 
think things over, voiced the general feeling by saying: ‘if Comrade Napoleon 
says it, it must be right’. And from then on he adopted the maxim, ‘Napoleon is 
always right,’ in addition to his private motto of ‘I will work harder.’ 

By this time the weather had broken and the spring ploughing had begun. 
The shed where Snowball had drawn his plans of the windmill had been shut 
up and it was assumed that the plans had been rubbed off the floor. Every 
Sunday morning at ten o’clock the animals assembled in the big barn to receive 
their orders for the week. The skull of old Major, now clean of flesh, had been 
disinterred from the orchard and set up on a stump at the foot of the flagstaff, 
beside the gun. After the hoisting of the flag, the animals were required to file 
past the skull in a reverent manner before entering the barn. Nowadays they 
did not sit all together as they had done in the past. Napoleon, with Squealer 
and another pig named Minimus, who had a remarkable gift for composing 
songs and poems, sat on the front of the raised platform, with the nine young 
dogs forming a semicircle round them, and the other pigs sitting behind. The 
rest of the animals sat facing them in the main body of the barn. Napoleon read 
out the orders for the week in a gruff soldierly style, and after a single singing 
of ‘Beasts of England’, all the animals dispersed. 

On the third Sunday after Snowball’s expulsion, the animals were somewhat 
surprised to hear Napoleon announce that the windmill was to be built after 
all. He did not give any reasons for having changed his mind, but merely 
warned the animals that this extra task would mean very hard work; it might 
even be necessary to reduce their rations. The plans, however, had all been 
prepared, down to the last detail. A special committee of pigs had been at work 
upon them for the past three weeks. The building of the windmill, with various 
other improvements, was expected to take two years. 

That evening Squealer explained privately to the other animals that Napo- 
leon had never in reality been opposed to the windmill. On the contrary, it was 
he who had advocated it in the beginning, and the plan which Snowball had 
drawn on the floor of the incubator shed had actually been stolen from among 
Napoleon’s papers. The windmill was, in fact, Napoleon’s own creation. Why, 
then, asked somebody, had he spoken so strongly against it? Here Squealer 
looked very sly. That, he said, was Comrade Napoleon’s cunning. He had 
seemed, to oppose the windmill, simply as a manoeuvre to get rid of Snowball, 
who was a dangerous character and a bad influence. Now that Snowball was 
out of the way, the plan could go forward without his interference. This, said 
Squealer, was something called tactics. He repeated a number of times, 
‘Tactics, comrades, tactics!’ skipping round and whisking his tail with a merry 
laugh. The animals were not certain what the word meant, but Squealer spoke so 
persuasively, and the three dogs who happened to be with him growled so 
threateningly, that they accepted his explanation without further questions. 



6 


All that year the animals worked like slaves. But they were happy in their work; 
they grudged no effort or sacrifice, well aware that everything that they did was 
for the benefit of themselves and those of their kind who would come after 
them, and not for a pack of idle., thieving human beings. 

Throughout the spring and summer they worked a sixty-hour week, and in 
August Napoleon announced that there would be work on Sunday afternoons 
as well. This work was strictly voluntary, but any animal who absented himself 
from it would have his rations reduced by half. Even so, it was found necessary 
to leave certain tasks undone. The harvest was a little less successful than in the 
previous year, and two fields which should have been sown with roots in the 
early summer were not sown because the ploughing had not been completed 
early enough. It was possible to foresee that the coming winter would be a hard 
one. 

The windmill presented unexpected difficulties. There was a good quarry of 
limestone on the farm, and plenty of sand and cement had been found in one of 
the outhouses, so that all the materials for building were at hand. But the 
problem the animals could not at first solve was how to break up the stones into 
pieces of suitable size. There seemed no way of doing this except with picks 
and crowbars, which no animal could use, because no animal could stand on 
his hind legs. Only after weeks of vain effort did the right idea occur to 
somebody-namely, to utilize the force of gravity. Huge boulders, far too big to 
be used as they were, were lying all over the bed of the quarry. The animals 
lashed ropes round these, and then all together, cows, horses, sheep, any 
animal that could lay hold of the rope- even the pigs sometimes joined in at 
critical moments -they dragged them with desperate slowness up the slope to 
the top of the quarry, where they were toppled over the edge, to shatter to 
pieces below. Transporting the stone when it was once broken was 
comparatively simple. The horses carried it off in cartloads, the sheep dragged 
single blocks, even Muriel and Benjamin yoked themselves into an old 
governess-cart and did their share. By late summer a sufficient store of stone 
had accumulated, and then the building began, under the superintendence of 
the pigs. 

But it was a slow, laborious process. Frequently it took a whole day of 
exhausting effort to drag a single boulder to the top of the quarry, and 
sometimes when it was pushed over the edge it failed to break. Nothing could 
have been achieved without Boxer, whose strength seemed equal to that of ah 



Animal Farm 


36 

the rest of the animals put together. When the boulder began to slip and the 
animals cried out in despair at finding themselves dragged down the hill, it was 
always Boxer who strained himself against the rope and brought the boulder to 
a stop. To see him toiling up the slope inch by inch, his breath coming fast, the 
tips of his hoofs clawing at the ground, and his great sides matted with sweat, 
filled everyone with admiration. Clover warned him sometimes to be careful 
not to overstrain himself, but Boxer would never listen to her. His two slogans, 
T will work harder’ and ‘Napoleon is always right’, seemed to him a sufficient 
answer to all problems. He had made arrangements with the cockerel to call 
him three-quarters of an hour earlier in the morning instead of half an hour. 
And in his spare moments, of which there were not many nowadays, he would 
go alone to the quarry, collect a load of broken stone, and drag it down to the 
site of the windmill unassisted. 

The animals were not badly off throughout that summer, in spite of 'the 
hardness of their work. If they had no more food than they had in Jones’s day, 
at least they did not have less. The advantage of only having to feed 
themselves, and not having to support five extravagant human beings as well, 
was so great that it would have taken a lot of failures to outweigh it. And in 
many ways the animal method of doing things was more efficient and saved 
labour. Such jobs as weeding, for instance, could be done with a thoroughness 
impossible to human beings. And again, since no animal now stole, it was 
unnecessary to fence off pasture from arable land, which saved a lot of labour 
on the upkeep of hedges and gates. Nevertheless, as the summer wore on, 
various unforeseen shortages began to make themselves felt. There was need of 
paraffin oil, nails, string, dog biscuits, and iron for the horses’ shoes, none of 
which could be produced on the farm. Later there would also be need for seeds 
and artificial manure, besides various tools and, finally, the machinery for the 
windmill. How these were to be procured, no one was able to imagine. 

One Sunday morning, when the animals assembled to receive their orders, 
Napoleon announced that he had decided upon a new policy. From now 
onwards Animal Farm would engage in trade with the neighbouring farms: 
not, of course, for any commercial purpose, but simply in order to obtain 
certain materials which were urgently necessary. The needs of the windmill 
must override everything else, he said. He was therefore making arrangements 
to sell a stack of hay and part of the current year’s wheat crop, and later on, if 
more money were needed, it would have to be made up by the sale of eggs, for 
which there was always a market in Willingdon. The hens, said Napoleon, 
should welcome this sacrifice as their own special contribution towards the 
building of the windmill. 

Once again the animals were conscious of a vague uneasiness. Never to have 
any dealings with human beings, never to engage in trade, never to make use of 
money— had not these been among the earliest resolutions passed at that first 
triumphant Meeting after Jones was expelled? All the animals remembered 
passing such resolutions: or at least they thought that they remembered it. The 
four young pigs who had protested when Napoleon abolished the Meetings 
raised their voices timidly, but they were promptly silenced by a tremendous 



Animal Farm 


37 


growling from the dogs. Then, as usual, the sheep. broke into ‘Four legs good, 
two legs bad!’ and the momentary awkwardness was smoothed over. Finally 
Napoleon raised his trotter for silence and announced that he had already 
made all the arrangements. There would be no need for any of the animals to 
come in contact with human beings, which would clearly be most undesirable. 
He intended to take the whole burden upon his own shoulders. A Mr 
Whymper, a solicitor hving in Willingdon, had agreed to act as intermediary 
between Animal Farm and the outside world, and would visit the farm every 
Monday morning to receive his instructions. Napoleon ended his speech with 
his usual cry of ‘Long live Animal Farm!’, and after the singing of ‘Beasts of 
England’ the animals were dismissed. 

Afterwards Squealer made a round of the farm and set the animals’ minds at 
rest. He assured them that the resolution against engaging in trade and using 
money had never been passed, or even suggested. It was pure imagination, 
probably traceable in the beginning to lies circulated by Snowball. A few 
animals still felt faintly doubtful, but Squealer asked them shrewdly, ‘Are you 
certain that this is not something that you have dreamed, comrades? Have you 
any record of such a resolution? Is it written down anywhere?’ And since it was 
certainly true that nothing of the kmd existed in writing, the animals were 
satisfied that they had been mistaken. 

Every Monday Mr Whymper visited the farm as had been arranged. He was 
a sly-looking little man with side whiskers, a solicitor in a very small way of 
business, but sharp enough to have realized earlier than anyone else that 
Animal Farm would need a broker and that the commissions would be worth 
having. The animals watched his coming and going with a kind of dread, and 
avoided him as much as possible. Nevertheless, the sight of Napoleon, on all 
fours, delivering orders to Whymper, who stood on two legs, roused their 
pride and partly reconciled them to the new arrangement. Their relations with 
the human race were now not quite the same as they had been before. The 
human beings did not hate Animal Farm any less now that it was prospering; 
indeed, they hated it more than ever. Every human being held it as an article of 
faith that the farm would go bankrupt sooner or later, and, above all, that the 
windmill would be a failure. They would meet in the public-houses and prove 
to one another by means of diagrams that the windmill was bound to fall down, 
or that if it did stand up, then that it would never work. And yet, against their 
will, they had developed a certain respect for the efficiency with which the 
animals were managing their own affairs. One symptom of this was that they 
had begun to call Animal Farm by its proper name and ceased to pretend that it 
was called the Manor Farm. They had also dropped their championship of 
Jones, who had given up hope of getting his farm back and gone to live in 
another part of the country. Except through Whymper, there was as yet no 
contact between Anim al Farm and the outside world, but there were constant 
rumours that Napoleon was about to enter into a definite business agreement 
either with Mr Pilkington of Foxwood or with Mr Frederick of Pinchfield-but 
never, it was noticed, with both simultaneously. 

It was about this time that the pigs suddenly moved into the farmhouse and 



Animal Farm 


3 * 

took up their residence there. Again the animals seemed to remember that a 
resolution against this had been passed in the early days, and again Squealer 
was able to convince- them that this was not the case. It was absolutely 
necessary, he said, that the pigs, who were the brains of the farm, should have a 
quiet place to work in. It was also more suited to the dignity of the Leader (for 
of late he had taken to speaking of Napoleon under the title of ‘Leader’) to live 
in a house than in a mere sty. Nevertheless, some of the animals were disturbed 
when they heard that the pigs not only took their meals in the kitchen and used 
the drawing-room as a recreation room but also slept in the beds. Boxer passed 
it off as usual with ‘Napoleon is always right!’, but Clover, who thought she 
remembered a definite ruling against beds, went to the end of the barn and 
tried to puzzle out the Seven Commandments which were inscribed there. 
Finding herself unable to read more than individual letters, she fetched 
Muriel. 

‘Muriel,’ she said, ‘read me the Fourth Commandment. Does it not say 
something about never sleeping in a bed?’ 

With some difficulty Muriel spelt it out. 

‘It says, “No animaLshall sleep in a bed with sheets she announced finally. 

Curiously enough, Clover had not remembered that the Fourth Command- 
ment mentioned sheets; but as it was there on the wall, it must have done so. 
And Squealer, who happened to be passing at this moment, attended by two or 
three dogs, was able to put the whole matter in its proper perspective. 

‘You have heard then, comrades,’ he said, ‘that we pigs now sleep in the beds 
of the farmhouse? And why not? You did not suppose, surely, that there was 
ever a ruling against beds ? A bed merely means a place to sleep in. A pile of 
straw in a stall is a bed, properly regarded. The rule was against sheets, which 
are a human invention. We have removed the sheets from the farmhouse beds, 
and sleep between blankets. And very comfortable beds they are too! But not 
more comfortable than we need, I can tell you, comrades, with all the 
brainwork we have to do nowadays. You would not rob us of our repose, would 
you, comrades? You would not have us too tired to carry out our duties? Surely 
none of you wishes to see Jones back?’ 

The animals reassured him on this point immediately, and no more was said 
about the pigs sleeping in the farmhouse beds. And when, some days 
afterwards, it was announced that from now on the pigs would get up an hour 
later in the mornings than the other animals, no complaint was made about 
that either. 

By the autumn the animals were tired but happy. They had had a hard year, 
and after the sale of part of the hay and corn, the stores of food for the winter 
were none too plentiful, but the windmill compensated for everything. It was 
almost half built now. After the harvest there was a stretch of clear dry 
weather, and the animals toiled harder than ever, thinking it well worth while 
to plod to and fro all day with blocks of stone if by doing so they could raise the 
walls another foot. Boxer would even come out at nights and work for an hour 
or two on his own by the light of the harvest mux n. In their spare moments the 
animals would walk round and round the half-finished mill, admiring the 



Animal Farm 


39 

strength and perpendicularity of its walls and marvelling that they should ever 
have been able to build anything so imposing. Only old Benjamin refused to 
grow enthusiastic about the windmill, though, as usual, he would utter 
nothing beyond the cryptic remark that donkeys live a long time. 

November came, with raging south-west winds. Building had to stop 
because it was now too wet to mix the cement. Finally there came a night when 
the gale was so violent that the farm buildings rocked on their foundations and 
several tiles were blown off the roqf of the barn. The hens woke up squawking 
with terror because they had all dreamed simultaneously of hearing a gun go 
off in the distance. In the morning the animals came out of their stalls to find 
that the flagstaff had blown down and an elm tree at the foot of the orchard had 
been plucked up like a radish. They had just noticed this when a cry of despair 
broke from every animal’s throat. A terrible sight had met their eyes. The 
windmill was in ruins. 

With one accord they dashed down to the spot. Napoleon, who seldom 
moved out of a walk, raced ahead of them all. Yes, there it lay, the fruit of all 
their struggles, levelled to its foundations, the stones they had broken and 
carried so laboriously scattered all around. Unable at first to speak, they stood 
gazing mournfully at the litter of fallen stone. Napoleon paced to and fro in 
silence, occasionally snuffing at the ground. His tail had grown rigid and 
twitched sharply from side to side, a sign in him of intense mental activity. 
Suddenly he halted as though his mind were made up. 

‘Comrades,’ he said quietly, ‘do you know who is responsible for this? Do 
you know the enemy who has come in the night and overthrown our windmill? 
snowball!’ he suddenly roared in a voice of thunder. ‘Snowball has done this 
thing! In sheer malignity, thinking to set back our plans and avenge himself for 
his ignominious expulsion, this traitor has crept here under cover of night and 
destroyed our work of nearly a year. Comrades, here and now I pronounce the 
death sentence upon Snowball. “Animal Hero, Second Class”, and half a 
bushel of apples to any animal who brings him to justice. A full bushel to 
anyone who captures him alive!’ 

The animals were shocked beyond measure to learn that even Snowball 
could be guilty of such an action. There was a cry of indignation and everyone 
began thinking out ways of catching Snowball if he should ever come back. 
Almost immediately the footprints of a pig were discovered in the grass at a 
little distance from the knoll. They could only be traced for a few yards, but 
appeared to lead to a hole in the hedge. Napoleon snuffed deeply at them and 
pronounced them to be Snowball’s. He gave it .as -his opinion that Snowball 
had probably come from the direction of Foxwood Farm. 

‘No more delays, comrades!’ said Napoleon when the footprints had been 
examined. There is work to be done. This very morning we begin rebuilding 
the windmill, and we will build all through the winter, rain or shine. We will 
teach this miserable traitor that he cannot undo our work so easily. Remember, 
comrades, there must be no alteration in our plans: they shall be carried out 
to the day. Forward, comrades! Long live the windmill! Long live Animal 
Farm!’ 



7 


It was a bitter winter. The stormy weather was followed by sleet and snow, and 
then by a hard frost which did not break till well into February. The animals 
carried on as best as they could with the rebuilding of the windmill, well 
knowing that the outside world was watching them and that the envious 
human beings would rejoice and triumph if the mill were not finished on time. 

Out of spite, the human beings pretended not to believe that it was Snowball 
who had destroyed the windmill: they said that it had fallen down because the 
walls were too thin. The animals knew that this was not the case Still, it had 
been decided to build the walls three feet thick this time instead of eighteen 
inches as before, which meant collecting much larger quantities of stone. For a 
long time the quarry was full of snowdrifts and nothing could be done. Some 
progress was made in the dry frosty weather that followed, but it was cruel 
work, and the animals could not feel so hopeful about it as they had felt before. 
They were always cold, and usually hungry as well. Only Boxer and Clover 
never lost heart. Squealer made excellent speeches on the joy of service and the 
dignity of labour, but the other animals found more inspiration in Boxer’s 
strength and his never-failing cry of T will work harder! 5 

In January food fell short. The corn ration was drastically reduced, and it 
was announced that an extra potato ration would be issued to make up for it. 
Then it was discovered that the greater part of the potato crop had been frosted 
in the clamps, which had not been covered thickly enough. The potatoes had 
become soft and discoloured, and only a few were edible. For days at a time the 
animals had nothing to eat but chaff and mangels. Starvation seemed to stare 
them in the face. 

It was vitally necessary to conceal this fact from the outside world. 
Emboldened by the collapse of the windmill, the human beings were inventing 
fresh lies about Animal Farm. Once again it was being put about that all the 
animals were dying of famine and disease, and that they were continually 
fighting among themselves and had resorted to cannibalism and infanticide. 
Napoleon was well aware of the bad results that might follow if the real facts of 
the food situation were known, and he decided to make use of Mr Whymper to 
spread a contrary impression. Hitherto the animals had had little or no contact 
with Whymper on his weekly visits: now, however, a few selected animals, 
mostly sheep, were instructed to remark casually in his hearing that rations 
had been, increased. In addition, Napoleon ordered the almost empty bins in 
the store-shed to be filled nearly to the brim with sand, which was then covered 



Animal Farm 41 

up with what remained of the grain and meal. On some suitable pretext 
Whymper was led through the store-shed and allowed to catch a glimpse of the 
bins. He was deceived and continued to report to the outside world that there 
was no food shortage on Animal Farm. 

Nevertheless, towards the end of January it became obvious that it would be 
necessary to procure some more grain from somewhere. In these days 
Napoleon rarely appeared in public, but spent all his time in the farmhouse, 
which was guarded at each door by fierce-looking dogs. When he did emerge, 
it was in a ceremonial manner, with an escort of six dogs who closely 
surrounded him and growled if anyone came too near. Frequently he did not 
even appear on Sunday mornings, but issued his orders through one of the 
other pigs, usually Squealer. 

One Sunday morning Squealer announced that the hens, who had just come 
in to lay again, must surrender their eggs. Napoleon had accepted, through 
Whymper, a contract for four hundred eggs a week. The price of these would 
pay for enough grain and meal to keep the farm going till summer came on and 
conditions were easier. 

When the hens heard this, they raised a terrible outcry. They had been 
warned earlier that this sacrifice might be necessary, but had not believed that 
it would really happen. They were just getting their clutches ready for the 
spring sitting, and they protested that to take the eggs away now was murder. 
For the first time since the expulsion of Jones there was something resembling 
a rebellion. Led by three young Black Minorca pullets, the hens made a 
determined effort to thwart Napoleon’s wishes. Their method was to fly up to 
the rafters and there lay their eggs, which smashed to pieces on the floor. 
Napoleon acted swiftly and ruthlessly. He ordered the hen’s rations to be 
stopped, and decreed that any animal giving so much as a grain of corn to a hen 
should be punished by death. The dogs saw to it that these orders were carried 
out. For five days the hens held out, then they capitulated and went back to 
their nesting boxes. Nine hens had died in the meantime. Their bodies were 
buried in the orchard, and it was given out they had died of coccidiosis. 
Whymper heard nothing of this affair, and the eggs were duly delivered, a 
grocer’s van driving up to the farm once a week to take them away. 

All this while no more had been seen of Snowball. He was rumoured to be 
hiding on one of the neighbouring farms, either Foxwood or Pinchfield. 
Napoleon was by this time on slightly better terms with the other farmers than 
before. It happened that there was in the yard a pile of timber which had been 
stacked there ten years earlier when a beech spinney was cleared. It was well 
seasoned, and Whymper had advised Napoleon to sell it; both Mr Pilkington 
and Mr Frederick were anxious to buy it. Napoleon was hesitating between the 
two, unable to make up his mind. It was noticed that whenever he seemed on 
the point of coming to an agreement with Frederick, Snowball was declared to 
be in biding at Foxwood, while, when he inclined towards Pilkington, 
Snowball was said to be at Pinchfield, 

Suddenly, early in the spring, an alarming thing was discovered. Snowball 
was secretly frequenting the farm by night! The animals were so disturbed that 



Animal Farm 


42 

they could hardly sleep in their stalls. Every night, it was said, he came 
creeping in under cover of darkness and performed all kinds of mischief. He 
stole the corn, he upset the milk-pails, he broke the eggs, he trampled the seed- 
beds, he gnawed the bark off the fruit trees. Whenever anything went wrong it 
became usual to attribute it to Snowball. If a window was broken or a drain 
blocked up, someone was certain to say that Snowball had come in the night 
and done it, and when the key of the store-shed was lost, the whole farm was 
convinced that Snowball had thrown it down the well Curiously enough, they 
went on believing this even after the mislaid key was found under a sack of 
meal. The cows declared unanimously that Snowball crept into their stalls and 
milked them m their sleep. The rats, which had been troublesome that winter, 
were also said to be in league with Snowball. 

Napoleon decreed that there should be a full investigation into Snowball’s 
activities. With his dogs in attendance he set out and made a careful tour of 
inspection of the farm buildings, the other animals following at a respectful 
distance. At every few steps Napoleon stopped and snuffed the ground for 
traces of Snowball’s footsteps, which, he said, he could detect by the smell. He 
snuffed in every corner, in the barn, in the cowshed, in the hen-houses, in the 
vegetable garden, and found traces of Snowball almost everywhere He would 
put his snout to the ground, give several deep sniffs, and exclaim in a terrible 
voice, ‘Snowball! He has been here! I can smell him distinctly!’ and at the word 
‘Snowball’ all the dogs let out blood-curdling growls and showed their side 
teeth. 

The animals were thoroughly frightened. It seemed to them as though 
Snowball were some kind of invisible influence, pervading the air about them 
and menacing them with all kinds of dangers. In the evening Squealer called 
them together, and with an alarmed expression on his face told them that he 
had some serious news to report. 

‘Comrades!’ cried Squealer, making little nervous skips, ‘a most terrible 
thing has been discovered. Snowball has sold himself to Frederick of 
Pinchfield Farm, who is even now plotting to attack us and take our farm away 
from us! Snowball is to act as his guide when the attack begins. But there is 
worse than that. We had thought that Snowball’s rebellion was caused by his 
vanity and ambition. But we .were wrong, comrades. Do you know what the 
real reason was? Snowball was in league with Jones from the very start! He was 
Jones’s secret agent all the time. It has all been proved by documents which he 
left behind him and which we have only just discovered. To my mind this 
explains a great deal, comrades. Did we not see for ourselves how he 
attempted— fortunately without success-to get us defeated and destroyed at 
the Battle of the Cowshed?’ 

The animals were stupefied. This was a wickedness far outdoing Snowball’s 
destruction of the windmill. But it was some minutes before they could fully 
1 take it in. They all remembered, or thought they remembered, how they had 
seen . Snowball charging ahead of them in the Battle of the Cowshed, how he 
had rallied and encouraged them at every turn, and how he had not paused for 
an instant even when the pellets from Jones’s gun had wounded his back. At 



Animal Farm 


43 

first it was a little difficult to see how this fitted in with his being on Jones’s 
side. Even Boxer, who seldom asked questions, was puzzled. He lay down, 
tucked his forehoofs beneath him, shut his eyes, and with a hard effort 
managed to formulate his thoughts. 

‘I do not believe that,’ he said. ‘Snowball fought bravely at the Battle of the 
Cowshed. I saw him myself. Did we not give him “Animal Hero, First Class”, 
immediately afterwards?’ 

‘That was our mistake, comrade. For we know now-it is all written down in 
the secret documents that we have found-that in reality he was trying to lure 
us to our doom.’ 

‘But he was wounded,’ said Boxer. ‘We all saw him running with blood.’ 

‘That was part of the arrangement!’ cried Squealer. ‘Jones’s shot only 
grazed him. I could show you this in his own writing, if you were able to read 
it. The plot was for Snowball, at the critical moment, to give the signal for 
flight and leave the field to the enemy. And he very nearly succeeded- 1 will 
even say, comrades, he would have succeeded if it had not been for our heroic 
Leader, Comrade Napoleon. Do you not remember how, just at the moment 
when Jones and his men had got inside the yard, Snowball suddenly turned 
and fled, and many animals followed him? And do you not remember, too, that 
it was just at that moment, when panic was spreading and all seemed lost, that 
Comrade Napoleon sprang foward with a cry of “Death to Humanity!” and 
sank his teeth in Jones’s leg? Surely you remember that , comrades?’ exclaimed 
Squealer, frisking from side to side. 

Now when Squealer described the scene so graphically, it seemed to the 
animals that they did remember it. At any rate, they remembered that at the 
critical moment of the battle Snowball had turned to flee. But Boxer was still a 
little uneasy. 

‘I do not believe that Snowball was a traitor at the beginning,’ he said finally. 
‘What he has done since is different. But I believe that at the Battle of the 
Cowshed he was a good comrade.’ 

‘Our Leader, Comrade Napoleon,’ announced Squealer, speaking very 
slowly and firmly, ‘has stated categorically-categorically, comrade-that 
Snowball was Jones’s agent from the very beginning-yes, and from long 
before the Rebellion was ever thought of.’ 

‘Ah, that is different!’ said Boxer. Tf Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be 
right.’ 

‘That is the true spirit, comrade!’ cried Squealer, but it was noticed he cast a 
very ugly look at Boxer with his little twinkling eyes. He turned to go, then 
paused and added impressively: ‘I warn every animal on this farm to keep his 
eyes very wide open. For we have reason to think that some of Snowball’s 
secret agents are lurking among us at this moment!’ 

Four days later, in the late afternoon, Napoleon ordered all the animals to 
assemble hi the yard. When they were all gathered together, Napoleon 
emerged from the farmhouse, wearing both his medals (for he had recently 
awarded himself ‘Animal Hero, First Class’, and ‘Animal Hero, Second 
Class’), with MS nine huge dogs frisking round him and uttering growls that 



Animal Farm 


44 

sent shivers down all the animals’ spines. They all cowered silently in their 
places, seeming to know in advance that some terrible thing was about to 
happen. 

Napoleon stood sternly surveying his audience; then he uttered a high- 
pitched whimper. Immediately the dogs bounded forward, seized four of the 
pigs by the ear and dragged them, squealing with pain and terror, to 
Napoleon’s feet. The pigs’ ears were bleeding, the dogs had tasted blood, and 
for a few moments they appeared to go quite mad. To the amazement of 
everybody, three of them flung themselves upon Boxer. Boxer saw them 
coming and put out his great hoof, caught a dog in mid-air, and pinned him to 
the ground. The dog shrieked for mercy and the other two fled with their tails 
between their legs. Boxer looked at Napoleon to know whether he should 
crush the dog to death or let it go. Napoleon appeared to change countenance, 
and sharply ordered Boxer to let the dog go, whereat Boxer lifted his hoof, and 
the dog slunk away, bruised and howling. 

Presently the tumult died down. The four pigs waited, trembling, with guilt 
written on every line of their countenances. Napoleon now called upon them to 
confess their crimes. They were the same four pigs as had protested when 
Napoleon abolished the Sunday Meetings. Without any further prompting 
they confessed that they had been secretly in touch with Snowball ever since 
his expulsion, that they had collaborated with him in destroying the windmill, 
and that they had entered into an agreement with him to hand over Animal 
Farm to Mr Frederick. They added that Snowball had privately admitted to 
them that he had been Jones’s secret agent for years past. When they had 
finished their confession, the dogs promptly tore their throats out, and in a 
terrible voice Napoleon demanded whether any other animal had anything to 
confess. 

The three hens who had been the ringleaders in the attempted rebellion over 
the eggs now came forward and stated that Snowball had appeared to them in a 
dream and incited them to disobey Napoleon’s orders. They, too, were 
slaughtered. Then a goose came forward and confessed to having secreted six 
ears of corn during the last year’s harvest and eaten them in the night. Then a 
sheep confessed to having urinated in the drinking pool -urged to do this, so 
she said, by Snowball-and two other sheep confessed to having murdered an 
old ram, an especially devoted follower of Napoleon, by chasing him round the 
bonfire when he was suffering from a cough. They were all slain on the spot. 
And so the tale of confessions and executions went on, until there was a pile of 
corpses lying before Napoleon’s feet and the air was heavy with the smell of 
blood, which had been unknown there since the expulsion of Jones. 

When it was all over, the remaining animals, except for the pigs and dogs, 
crept away in a body. They were shaken and miserable. They did not know 
which was more shocking-the treachery of the animals who had leagued 
themselves with Snowball, or the cruel retribution they had just witnessed. In 
the old days there had often been scenes of bloodshed equally terrible, but it 
seemed to all of them that it was far worse now that it was happening among 
themselves. Since Jones had left the farm, until today, no animal had killed 



Animal Farm 


45 

another animal. Not even a rat had been killed. They had made their way on to 
the little knoll where the half-finished windmill stood, and with one accord 
they all lay down as though huddling together for warmth-Clover, Muriel, 
Benjamin, the cows, the sheep, and a whole flock of geese and hens-everyone, 
indeed, except the cat, who had suddenly disappeared just before Napoleon 
ordered the animals to assemble. For some time nobody spoke. Only Boxer 
remained on his feet. He fidgeted to and fro, swishing his long black tail against 
his sides, and occasionally uttering a little whinny of surprise. Finally he said: 

£ I do not understand it. I would not have believed that such things could 
happen on our farm. It must be due to some fault in ourselves. The solution, as 
I see it, is to work harder. From now onwards I shall get up a full hour earlier 
in the mornings. 5 

And he moved off at his lumbering trot and made for the quarry. Having got 
there, he collected two successive loads of stone and dragged them down to the 
windmill before retiring for the night. 

The animals huddled about Clover, not speaking. The knoll where they 
were lying gave them a wide prospect across the countryside. Most of Animal 
Farm was within their view-the long pasture stretching down to the main 
road, the hayfield, the spinney, the drinking pool, the ploughed fields where 
the young wheat was thick and green, and the red roofs of the farm buildings 
with the smoke curling from the chimneys. It was a clear spring evening. The 
grass and the bursting hedges were gilded by the level rays of the sun. Never 
had the farm-and with a kind of surprise they remembered that it was their 
own farm, every inch of it their own property-appeared to the animals so 
desirable a place. As Clover looked down the hillside her eyes filled with tears. 
If she could have spoken her thoughts, it would have been to say that this was 
not what they had aimed at when they had set themselves years ago to work for 
the overthrow of the human race. These scenes of terror and slaughter were 
not what they had looked forward to on that night when old Major first stirred 
them to rebellion. If she herself had had any picture of the future, it had been 
of a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each 
working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak, as she had 
protected the last brood of ducklings with her foreleg on the night of Major’s 
speech. Instead-she did not know why-they had come to a time when no one 
dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and 
when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to 
shocking crimes. There was no thought of rebellion or disobedience in her 
mind. She knew that, even as things were, they were far better off than they 
had been in the days of Jones, and that before all else it was needful to prevent 
the return of the human beings. Whatever happened she would remain 
faithful, work hard, carry out the orders that were given to her, and accept the 
leadership of Napoleon. But still, it was not for this that she and all the other 
animals had hoped and toiled. It was not for this that they had built the 
windmill and faced the bullets of Jones’s guns. Such were her thoughts, 
though she lacked the words to express them. 

At last, feeling this to be in some way a substitute for the words she was 



Animal Farm 


46 

unable to find, she began to sing ‘Beasts of England’. The other animals sitting 
round her took it up, and they sang it three times over-very tunefully, but 
slowly and mournfully, in a way they had never sung it before. 

They had just finished singing it for the third time when Squealer, attended 
by two dogs, approached them with the air of having something important to 
say. He announced that, by a special decree of Comrade Napoleon, ‘Beasts of 
England’ had been abolished. From now onwards it was forbidden to sing it. 

The animals were taken aback. 

‘Why?’ cried Muriel. 

‘It is no longer needed, comrade,’ said Squealer stiffly. “‘Beasts of England” 
was the song of the Rebellion. But the Rebellion is now completed. The 
execution of the traitors this afternoon was the final act. The enemy both 
external and internal has been defeated. In “Beasts of England” we expressed 
our longing for a better society in days to come. But that society has now been 
established. Clearly this song has no longer any purpose.’ 

Frightened though they were, some of the animals might possibly have 
protested, but at this moment the sheep set up their usual bleating of ‘Four 
legs good, two legs bad’, which went on for several minutes and put an end to 
the discussion. 

So ‘Beasts of England’ was heard no more. In its place Minimus, the poet, 
had composed another song which began: 

Animal Farm, Animal Farm, 

Never through me shalt thou come to harm* 

and this was sung every Sunday morning after the hoisting of the flag. But 
somehow neither the words nor the tune ever seemed to the animals to come up 
to ‘Beasts of England’. 


8 


A few days later, when the terror caused by the executions had died down, 
some of the animals remembered-or thought they remembered-that the Sixth 
Commandment decreed: ‘No animal shall kill any other animal.’ And though 
no one cared to mention it in the hearing of the pigs or the dogs, it was felt that 
the killings which had taken place did not square with this. Clover asked 
Benjamin to read her the Sixth Commandment, and when Benjamin, as usual, 
said that he refused to meddle in such matters, she fetched Muriel. Muriel read 
the Commandment for her. It ran: ‘No animal shall kill any other animal 
without cause . 7 Somehow or other, the last two words had slipped out of the 
animals’ memory. But they saw now that the commandment had not been 
violated; for clearly there was good reason for killing the traitors who had 



Animal Farm 


47 


leagued themselves with Snowball. 

Throughout that year the animals worked even harder than they had worked 
in the previous year. To rebuild the windmill, with walls twice as thick as 
before, and to finish it by the appointed date, together with the regular work of 
the farm, was a tremendous labour. There were times when it seemed to the 
animals that they worked longer hours and fed no better than they had done in 
Jones’s day. On Sunday mornings Squealer, holding down a long strip of 
paper with his trotter, would read out to them lists of figures proving that the 
production of every class of foodstuff had increased by 200 per cent, 300 per 
cent, or 500 per cent, as the case might be. The animals saw no reason to 
disbelieve him, especially as they could no longer remember very clearly what 
conditions had been like before the Rebellion. All the same, there were days 
when they felt that they would sooner have had less figures and more food. 

All orders were now issued through Squealer or one of the other pigs. 
Napoleon himself was not seen in public as often as once a fortnight. When he 
did appear, he was attended not only by his retinue of dogs but by a black 
cockerel who marched in front of him and acted as a kind of trumpeter, letting 
out a loud ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ before Napoleon spoke. Even in the 
farmhouse, it was said, Napoleon inhabited separate apartments from the 
others. He took his meals alone, with two dogs to wait upon him, and always 
ate from the Crown Derby dinner service which had been in the glass 
cupboard in the drawing-room. It was also announced that the gun would be 
fired every year on Napoleon’s birthday, as well as on the other two 
anniversaries. 

Napoleon was now never spoken of simply as ‘Napoleon’. He was always 
referred to in formal style as ‘our Leader, Comrade Napoleon’, and the pigs 
liked to invent for him such titles as Father of All Animals, Terror of 
Mankind, Protector of the Sheep-fold, Ducklings’ Friend, and the like. In his 
speeches, Squealer would talk with the tears rolling down his cheeks of 
Napoleon’s wisdom, the goodness of his heart, and the deep love he bore to all 
animals everywhere, even and especially the unhappy animals who still lived in 
ignorance and slavery on other farms. It had become usual to give Napoleon 
the credit for every successful achievement and every stroke of good fortune. 
You would often hear one hen remark to another. ‘Under the guidance of our 
Leader, Comrade Napoleon, I have laid five eggs in six days’; or two cows, 
enjoying a drink at the pool, would exclaim, ‘Thanks to the leadership of 
Comrade Napoleon, how excellent this water tastes!’ The general feeling on 
the farm was well expressed in a poem entitled ‘Comrade Napoleon’, which 
was composed by Minimus and which ran as follows: 

Friend of the fatherless! 

Fountain of happiness! 

Lord of the s will-bucket! Oh, how my soul is on 
Fite when I gaae at thy 
Calm and commanding eye, 

Like the sun in the sky, 

Comrade Napoleon! 


4.8 Animal Farm 

Thou art the giver of 
All that thy creatures love, 

Full belly twice a day, clean straw to roll upon, 

Every beast great or small 
Sleeps at peace in his stall, 

Thou watchest over all. 

Comrade Napoleon! 

Had I a sucking-pig, 

Ere he had grown as big 

Even as a pint bottle or a rolling-pm, 

He should have learned to be 
Faithful and true to thee, 

Yes, his first squeak should be 
‘Comrade Napoleon!’ 

Napoleon approved of this poem and caused it to be inscribed on the wall of 
the big barn, at the opposite end from the Seven Commandments. It was 
surmounted by a portrait of Napoleon, in profile, executed by Squealer in 
white paint. 

Meanwhile, through the agency of Whymper, Napoleon was engaged in 
complicated negotiations with Frederick and Pilkington. The pile of timber 
was still unsold. Of the two, Frederick was the more anxious to get hold of it, 
but he would not offer a reasonable price. At the same time there were renewed 
rumours that Frederick and his men were plotting to attack Animal Farm and 
to destroy the windmill, the building of which had aroused furious jealousy in 
him. Snowball was known to be still skulking on Pinchfield Farm. In the 
middle of the summer the animals were alarmed to hear that three hens had 
come forward and confessed that, inspired by Snowball, they had entered into 
a plot to murder Napoleon. They were executed immediately, and fresh 
precautions for Napoleon’s safety were taken. Four dogs guarded his bed at 
night, one at each corner, and a young pig named Pinkeye was given the task of 
tasting all his food before he ate it, lest it should be poisoned. 

At about the same time it was given out that Napoleon had arranged to sell 
the pile of timber to Mr Pilkington^ he was also going to enter into a regular 
agreement for the exchange of certain products between Animal Farm and 
Foxwood. The relations between Napoleon and Pilkington, though they were 
only conducted through Whymper, were now almost friendly. The animals 
distrusted Pilkington, as a human being, but greatly preferred him to 
Frederick, whom they both feared and hated. As the summer wore on, and the 
windmiR neared completion, the rumours of an impending treacherous attack 
grew stronger and stronger. Frederick, it was said, intended to bring against 
them twenty men all armed with guns, and he had already bribed the 
magistrates and police, so that if he could once get hold of the title-deeds of 
Animal Farm they would ask no questions. Moreover, terrible stories were 
leaking out from Pinchfield about the cruelties that Frederick practised upon 
his animals. He had flogged an old horse to death, he starved his cows, he had 
killed a dog by throwing it into a furnace, he amused himself in the evenings by 
making cocks fight with splinters of razor-blade tied to their spurs. The 
animals’ blood boiled with rage when-they heard of these things being done to 



Animal Farm 


49 

their comrades, and sometimes they clamoured to be allowed to go out in a 
body and attack Pinchfield Farm, drive out the humans, and set the animals 
free. But Squealer counselled them to avoid rash actions and trust in Comrade 
Napoleon’s strategy. 

Nevertheless, feeling against Frederick continued to run high. One Sunday 
morning Napoleon appeared in the barn and explained that he had never at any 
time contemplated selling the pile of timber to Frederick; he considered it 
beneath his dignity, he said, to have dealings with scoundrels of that 
description The pigeons who were still sent out to spread tidings of the 
Rebellion were forbidden to set foot anywhere on Foxwood, and were also 
ordered to drop their former slogan of ‘Death to Humanity’ in favour of 
‘Death to Frederick’. In the late summer yet another of Snowball’s 
machinations was laid bare. The wheat crop was full of weeds, and it was 
discovered that on one of his nocturnal visits Snowball had mixed weed seeds 
with the seed corn. A gander who had been privy to the plot had confessed his 
guilt to Squealer and immediately committed suicide by swallowing deadly 
nightshade berries. The animals now also learned that Snowball had never-as 
many of them had believed hitherto-received the order of ‘Animal Hero, First 
Class’. This was merely a legend which had been spread some time after the 
Battle of the Cowshed by Snowball himself. So far from being decorated, he 
had been censured for showing cowardice in the battle. Once again some of the 
animals heard this with a certain bewilderment, but Squealer was soon able to 
convince them that their memories had been at fault. 

In the autumn, by a tremendous, exhausting effort-for the harvest had to be 
gathered at almost the same time-the windmill was finished. The machinery 
had still to be installed, and Whymper was negotiating the purchase of it, but 
the structure was completed. In the teeth of every difficulty, in spite of 
inexperience, of primitive implements, of bad luck, and of Snowball’s 
treachery, the work had been finished punctually to the very day! Tired out 
but proud, the animals walked round and round their masterpiece, which 
appeared even more beautiful in their eyes than when it had been built the first 
time. Moreover, the walls were twice as thick as before. Nothing short of 
explosives would lay them low this time! And when they thought of how they 
had laboured, what discouragements they had overcome, and the enormous 
difference that would be made in their lives when the sails were turning and the 
dynamos running-when they thought of all this, their tiredness forsook them 
and they gambolled round and round the windmill, uttering cries of triumph. 
Napoleon himself, attended by his dogs and his cockerel, came down to inspect 
the completed work; he personally congratulated the animals on their 
achievement, and announced that the mill would be, named Napoleon Mill. 

Two days later the animals were called together for a special meeting in the 
bam. They were struck dumb with surprise when Napoleon announced that 
he had sold the pile of timber to Frederick, Tomorrow Frederick’s wagons 
would arrive and begin carting it away. Throughout the whole period of his 
seeming friendship with Pilkington, Napoleon had really been in secret 
agreement with Frederick. 



SO 


Animal Farm 


All relations with Foxwood had been broken off; insulting messages had 
been sent to Pilkington. The pigeons had been told to avoid Pinchfield Farm 
and to alter their slogan from ‘Death to Frederick 5 to ‘Death to Pilkington 5 . At 
the same time Napoleon assured the animals that the stories of an impending 
attack on Animal Farm were completely untrue, and that the tales about 
Frederick’s cruelty to his animals had been greatly exaggerated. All these 
rumours had probably originated with Snowball and his agents. It now 
appeared that Snowball was not, after all, hiding on Pinchfield Farm, and in 
fact had never been there in his life: he was living-in considerable luxury, so it 
was said -at Foxwood, and had in reality been a pensioner of Pilkington for 
years past. 

The pigs were in ecstasies over Napoleon’s cunning. By seeming to be 
friendly with Pilkington he had forced Frederick to raise his price by twelve 
pounds. But the superior quality of Napoleon’s mind, said Squealer, was 
shown in the fact that he trusted nobody, not even Frederick. Frederick had 
wanted to pay for the timber with something called a cheque, which, it seemed, 
was a piece of paper with a promise to pay written upon it. But Napoleon was 
too clever for him. He had demanded payment in real five-pound notes, which 
were to be handed over before the timber was removed. Already Frederick had 
paid up; and the sum he had paid was just enough to buy the machinery for the 
windmill. 

Meanwhile the timber was being carted away at high speed. When it was all 
gone, another special meeting was held in the barn for the animals to inspect 
Frederick’s bank-notes. Smiling beatifically, and wearing both his de- 
corations, Napoleon reposed on a bed of straw on the platform, with the money 
at his side neatly piled on a china dish from the farmhouse kitchen. The 
animals filed slowly past, and each gazed his fill. And Boxer put out his nose to 
sniff at the bank-notes, and the flimsy white things stirred and rustled in his 
breath. 

Three days later there was a terrible hullabaloo. Whymper, his face deadly 
pale, came racing up the path on his bicycle, flung it down in the yard, and 
rushed straight into the farmhouse. The next moment a choking roar of rage 
sounded from Napoleon’s apartments. The news of what had happened sped 
round the farm like wildfire. The bank-notes were forgeries! Frederick had got 
the timber for nothing! 

Napoleon called the animals together immediately and in a terrible voice 
pronounced the death sentence upon Frederick. When captured, he said, 
Frederick should be boiled alive. At the same time he warned them that after 
this treacherous deed the worst was to be expected. Frederick and his men 
might make their long-expected attack at any moment. Sentinels were placed 
at all the approaches to the farm. In addition, four pigeons were sent - to 
Foxwood with a conciliatory message, which it was hoped might re-establish 
good relations with Pilkington. 

The very next morning the attack came. The animals were at breakfast when 
the look-outs came racing in with the news that Frederick and his followers 
had already come through the five-barred gate. Boldly enough the animals 



Animal Farm 


5i 

sallied forth to meet them, but this time they did not have the easy victory that 
they had had in the Battle of the Cowshed. There were fifteen men, with half a 
dozen guns between them, and they opened fire as soon as they got within fifty 
yards. The animals could not face the terrible explosions and the stinging 
pellets, and in spite of the efforts of Napoleon and Boxer to rally them, they 
were soon driven back. A number of them were already wounded. They took 
refuge in the farm buildings and peeped cautiously out from chinks and knot- 
holes. The whole of the big pasture, including the windmill, was in the hands 
of the enemy. For the moment even Napoleon seemed at a loss. He paced up 
and down without a word, his tail rigid and twitching. Wistful glances were 
sent in the direction of Fox wood. If Pilkmgton and his men would help them, 
the day might yet be won. But at this moment the four pigeons, who had been 
sent out on the day before, returned, one of them bearing a scrap of paper from 
Pilkington. On it was pencilled the words: ‘Serves you right’. 

Meanwhile Frederick and his men had halted about the windmill. The 
animals watched them, and a murmur of dismay went round. Two of the men 
had produced a crowbar and a sledge-hammer. They were going to knock the 
windmill down. 

‘Impossible!’ cried Napoleon. ‘We have built the walls far too thick for that. 
They could not knock it down in a week. Courage, comrades!’ 

But Benjamin was watching the movements of the men intently. The two 
with the hammer and the crowbar were drilling a hole near the base of the 
windmill. Slowly, and with an air almost of amusement, Benjamin nodded his 
long muzzle. 

‘I thought so,’ he said. ‘Do you not see what they are doing? In another 
moment they are going to pack blasting powder into that hole.’ 

T errified,"the animals waited. It was impossible now to venture out of the 
shelter of the buildings. After a few minutes the men were seen to be running 
in all directions. Then there was a deafening roar. The pigeons swirled into the 
air, and all the animals, except Napoleon, flung themselves flat on their bellies 
and hid their faces. When they got up again, a huge cloud of black smoke was 
hanging where the windmill had been. Slowly the breeze drifted it away. The 
windmill had ceased to exist! 

At this sight the animals’ courage returned to them. The fear and despair 
they had felt a moment earlier were drowned in their rage against this vile, 
contemptible act. A mighty cry for vengeance went up, and without waiting for 
further orders they charged forth in a body and made straight for the enemy. 
This time they did not heed the cruel pellets that swept over them like hail. It 
was a savage, bitter battle. The men fired again and again, and when the 
animals got to close quarters, lashed out with their sticks and their heavy boots. 
A cow, three sheep, and two geese were killed, and nearly everyone was 
wounded. Even Napoleon, who was directing operations from the rear, had the 
tip of his tail chipped by a pellet. But the men did not go unscathed either. 
Three of them had their heads broken by blows from Boxer’s hoofs, another 
was gored in the belly by a cow’s horn; another had his trousers nearly tom off 
by Jessi^asd Bluebell. And when the nine dogs of Napoleon’s ^jsmJbodjiguard, 



Animal Farm 


52 

whom he had instructed to make a detour under cover of the hedge, suddenly- 
appeared on the men’s flank, baying ferociously, panic overtook them. They 
saw that they were in danger of being surrounded. Frederick shouted to his 
men to get out while the going was good, and the next moment the cowardly 
enemy was running for dear life. The animals chased them right down to the 
bottom of the field, and got in some last kicks at them as they forced their way 
through the thorn hedge. 

They had won, but they were weary and bleeding. Slowly they began to limp 
back towards the farm. The sight of their dead comrades stretched upon the 
grass moved some of them to tears. And for a little while they halted in 
sorrowful silence at the place where the windmill had once stood. Yes, it was 
gone; almost the last trace of their labour was gone! Even the foundations were 
partially destroyed. And in rebuilding it they could not this time, as before, 
make use of the fallen stones. This time the stones had vanished too. The force 
of the explosion had flung them to distances of hundreds of yards. It was as 
though the windmill had never been. 

As they approached the farm Squealer, who had unaccountably been absent 
during the fighting, came skipping towards them, whisking his tail and 
beaming with satisfaction. And the animals heard, from the direction of the 
farm buildings, the solemn booming of a gun. 

‘What is that gun firing for?’ said Boxer. 

‘To celebrate our victory!’ cried Squealer. 

‘What victory?’ said Boxer. His knees were bleeding, he had lost a shoe and 
split his hoof, and a dozen pellets had lodged themselves in his hindleg. 

‘What victory, comrade? Have we not driven the enemy off our soil-the 
sacred soil of Animal Farm?’ 

‘But they have destroyed the windmill. And we had worked on it for two 
years!’ 

‘What matter? We will build another windmill. We will build six windmills 
if we feel like it. You do not appreciate, comrade, the mighty thing that we have 
done. The enemy was in occupation of this very ground that we stand upon. 
And now-thanks to the leadership of Comrade Napoleon- we have won every 
inch of it back again!’ 

‘Then we have won back what we had before,’ said Boxer. 

‘That is our victory,’ said Squealer. 

They limped into the yard. The pellets under the skin of Boxer’s leg smarted 
painfully. He saw ahead of him the heavy labour of rebuilding the windmill 
from the foundations, and already in imagination he braced himself for the 
task. But for the first time it occurred to him that he was eleven years old and 
that perhaps his great muscles were not quite what they had once been. 

But when the animals saw the green flag flying, and heard the gun firing 
again— seven times it was fired in all— and heard the speech that Napoleon 
made, congratulating them on their conduct, it did seem to them after all that 
they had won a great victory. The animals slain in the battle were given a 
solemn funeral. Boxer and Clover pulled the wagon which served as a hearse, 
and Napoleon himself walked at the head of the procession. Two whole days 



Animal Farm 


53 

were given over to celebrations. There were songs, speeches, and more firing 
of the gun, and a special gift of an apple was bestowed on every animal, with 
two ounces of corn for each bird and three biscuits for each dog. It was 
announced that the battle would be called the Battle of the Windmill, and that 
Napoleon had created a new decoration, the Order of the Green Banner, which 
he had conferred upon himself. In the general rejoicings the unfortunate affair 
of the bank-notes was forgotten. 

It was a few days later than this that the pigs came upon a case of whisky in 
the cellars of the farmhouse. It had been overlooked at the time when the house 
was first occupied. That night there came from the farmhouse the sound of 
loud singing, in which, to everyone’s surprise, the strains of ‘Beasts of 
England’ were mixed up. At about half past nine Napoleon, wearing an old 
bowler hat of Mr Jones’s, was distinctly seen to emerge from the back door, 
gallop rapidly round the yard, and disappear indoors again. But in the morning 
a deep silence hung over the farmhouse. Not a pig appeared to be stirring. It 
was nearly nine o’clock when Squealer made his appearance, walking slowly 
and dejectedly, his eyes dull, his tail hanging limply behind him, and with 
every appearance of being seriously ill. He called the animals together and told 
them that he had a terrible piece of news to impart. Comrade Napoleon was 
dying! 

A cry of lamentation went up. Straw was laid down outside the doors of the 
farmhouse, and the animals walked on tiptoe. With tears in their eyes they 
asked one another what they should do if their Leader was taken away from 
them. A rumour went round that Snowball had after all contrived to introduce 
poison into Napoleon’s food. At eleven o’clock Squealer came out to make 
another announcement. As his last act upon earth. Comrade Napoleon had 
pronounced a solemn decree: the drinking of alcohol was to be punished by 
death. 

By the evening, however, Napoleon appeared to be somewhat better, and 
the following morning Squealer was able to tell them that he was well on the 
way to recovery. By the evening of that day Napoleon was back at work, and on 
the next day it was learned that he had instructed Whymper to purchase in 
Willingdon some booklets on brewing and distilling. A week later Napoleon 
gave orders that the small paddock beyond the orchard, which it had 
previously been intended to set aside as a grazing-ground for animals who 
were past work, was to be ploughed up. It was given out that the pasture was 
exhausted and needed re-seeding; but it soon became known that Napoleon 
intended to sow it with barley. 

About this time there occurred a strange incident which hardly anyone was 
able to understand. One night at about twelve o’clock there was a loud crash in 
the yard, and the animals rushed out of their stalls. It was a moonlight night. 
At the foot of the end wall of the big bam, where the Seven Commandments 
were written, there lay a ladder broken in two pieces. Squealer, temporarily 
stunned, was sprawling beside it, and near at hand there lay a lantern, a paint- 
brush, and an overturned pot of white paint. The dogs immediately made a 
ring round Squealer, and escorted him back to the farmhouse as soon as be was 



Animal Farm 


54 

able to walk. None of the animals could form any idea as to what this meant, 
except old Benjamin, who nodded his muzzle with a knowing air, and seemed 
to understand, but would say nothing. 

But a few days later Muriel, reading over the Seven Commandments to 
herself, noticed that there was yet another of them which the animals had 
remembered wrong. They had thought that the Fifth Commandment was ‘No 
animals shall drink alcohol’, but there were two words that they had forgotten. 
Actually the Commandment read: ‘No animal shall drink alcohol to excess . 3 


9 


Boxer’s split hoof was a long time in healing. They had started the rebuilding 
of the windmill the day after the victory celebrations were ended. Boxer 
refused to take even a day off work, and made it a point of honour not to let it be 
seen that he was in pain. In the evening he would admit privately to Clover that 
the hoof troubled him a great deal. Clover treated the hoof with poultices of 
herbs which she prepared by chewing them, and both she and Benjamin urged 
Boxer to work less hard. ‘A horse’s lungs do not last for ever,’ she said to him. 
But Boxer would not listen. He had, he said, only one real ambition left-to see 
the windmill well under way before he reached the age for retirement. 

At the beginning, when the laws of Animal Farm were first formulated, the 
retiring age had been fixed for horses and pigs at twelve, for cows at fourteen, 
for dogs at nine, for sheep at seven, and for hens and geese at five. Liberal old 
age pensions had been agreed upon, As yet no animal had actually retired on 
pension, but of late the subject had been discussed more and more. Now that 
the small field beyond the orchard had been set aside for barley, it was 
rumoured that a corner of the large pasture was to be fenced off and turned into 
a grazing-ground for superannuated animals. For a horse, it was said, the 
pension would be five pounds of corn a day and, in winter, fifteen pounds of 
hay, with a carrot or possibly an apple on public holidays. Boxer’s twelfth 
birthday was due in the late summer of the following year. 

Meanwhile life was hard. The winter was as cold as the last one had been, 
and food was even shorter. Once again all rations were reduced, except those of 
the pigs and dogs. A too rigid equality in rations. Squealer explained, would 
have been contrary to the principles of Animalism. In any case he had no 
' difficulty in proving to the other animals that they were not in reality short of 
food, whatever the appearances might be. For the time being, certainly, it had 
been found necessary to make a readjustment of rations (Squealer always 
spoke of it as a ‘readjustment’, never as a ‘reduction’), but in comparison with 
die days of Jones, the improvement was enormous, Reading out the figures in a 
shrill, rapid voice, he proved to them in detail that they had more oats, more 



Animal Farm 


55 

hay, more turnips than they had had in Jones's day, that they worked shorter 
hours, that their drinking water was of better quality, that they lived longer, 
that a larger proportion of their young ones survived infancy, and that they had 
more straw in their stalls and suffered less from fleas. The animals believed 
every word of it. Truth to tell, Jones and all he stood for had almost faded out 
of their memories. They knew that life nowadays was harsh and bare, that they 
were often hungry and often cold, and that they were usually working when 
they were not asleep. But doubtless it had been worse in the old days. They 
were glad to believe so. Besides, in those days they had been slaves and now 
they were free, and that made all the difference, as Squealer did not fail to point 
out. 

There were many more mouths to feed now In the autumn the four sows 
had all littered about simultaneously, producing thirty-one young pigs 
between them. The young pigs were piebald, and as Napoleon was the only 
boar on the farm, it was possible to guess at their parentage. It was announced 
that later, when bricks and timber had been purchased, a schoolroom would be 
built in the farmhouse garden. For the time being, the young pigs were given 
their instruction by Napoleon himself in the farmhouse kitchen. They took 
their exercise in the garden, and were discouraged from playing with the other 
young animals. About this time, too, it was laid down as a rule that when a pig 
and any other animal met on the path, the other animal must stand aside: and 
also that all pigs, of whatever degree, were to have the privilege of wearing 
green ribbons on their tails on Sundays. 

The farm had had a fairly successful year, but was still short of money. 
There were the bricks, sand, and lime for the schoolroom to be purchased, and 
it would also be necessary to begin saving up again for the machinery for the 
windmill. Then there were lamp oil and candles for the house, sugar for 
Napoleon’s own table (he forbade this to the other pigs, on the ground that it 
made them fat), and all the usual replacements such as tools, nails, string, coal, 
wire, scrap-iron, and dog biscuits. A stump of hay and part of the potato crop 
were sold off, and the contract for eggs was increased to six hundred a week, so 
that that year the hens barely hatched enough chicks to keep their numbers at 
the same level. Rations, reduced in December, were reduced again in 
February, and lanterns in the stalls were forbidden, to save oil. But the pigs 
seemed comfortable enough, and in fact were putting on weight if anything. 
One afternoon in late February, a warm, rich, appetizing scent, such as the 
animals had never smelt before, wafted itself across the yard from the little 
brewhouse, which had been disused in Jones’s time, and which stood beyond 
the kitchen. Someone said it was the smell of cooking barley. The animals 
sniffed the air hungrily and wondered whether a warm mash was being 
prepared for .their supper. But no warm mash appeared, and on the following 
Sunday it was announced that from now onwards all barley would be reserved 
for the pigs. The field beyond the orchard had already been sown with barley. 
And the news soon leaked out that every pig was now receiving a ration of a 
pint of beer daily, with half a gallon for Napoleon himself, which was always 
served to him in the Grown Derby soup tureen. 



56 


Animal Farm 


But if there were hardships to be borne, they were partly offset by the fact 
that life nowadays had a greater dignity than it had had before. There were 
more songs, more speeches, more processions. Napoleon had commanded that 
once a week there should be held something called a Spontaneous 
Demonstration, the object of which was to celebrate the struggles and 
triumphs of Animal Farm. At the appointed time the animals would leave their 
work and march round the precincts of the farm in military formation, with the 
pigs leading, then the horses, then the cows, then the sheep, and then the 
poultry. The dogs flanked the procession and at the head of all marched 
Napoleon’s black cockerel. Boxer and Clover always carried between them a 
green banner marked with the hoof and the horn and the caption, ‘Long Live 
Comrade Napoleon!’ Afterwards there were recitations of poems composed in 
Napoleon’ s. honour, and a speech by Squealer giving particulars of the latest 
increases in the production of foodstuffs, and on occasion a shot was fired from 
the gun. The sheep were the greatest devotees of the Spontaneous 
Demonstration, and if anyone complained (as a few animals sometimes did, 
when no pigs or dogs were near) that they wasted time and meant a lot of 
standing about in the cold, the sheep were sure to silence him with a 
tremendous bleating of ‘Four legs good, two legs bad!’ But by and large the 
animals enjoyed these celebrations. They found it comforting to be reminded 
that, after all, they were truly their own masters and that the work they did was 
for their own benefit. So that, what with the songs, the processions. Squealer’s 
lists of figures, the thunder of the gun, the crowing of the cockerel, and the 
fluttering of the flag, they were able to forget that their bellies were empty, at 
least part of the time. 

In April, Animal Farm was proclaimed a Republic, and it became necessary 
to elect a President. There was only one candidate, Napoleon, who was elected 
unanimously. On the same day it was given out that fresh documents had been 
discovered which revealed further details about Snowball’s complicity with 
Jones. It now appeared that Snowball had not, as the animals had previously 
imagined, merely attempted to lose the Battle of the Cowshed by means of a 
stratagem, but had been openly fighting on Jones’s side. In fact, it was he who 
had actually been the leader of the human forces, and had charged into battle 
with the words ‘Long live Humanity!’ on his lips. The wounds on Snowball’s 
back, which a few of the animals still remembered to have seen, had been 
inflicted by Napoleon’s teeth. 

In the middle of the summer Moses the raven suddenly reappeared on the 
farm, after an absence of several years. He was quite unchanged, still did no 
work, and talked in the same strain as ever about Sugarcandy Mountain. He 
would perch on a stump, flap his black wings, and talk by the hour to anyone 
who would listen. ‘Up there, comrades,’ he would say solemnly, pointing to 
the sky with his large beak- ‘up there, just on the other side of that dark cloud 
that you can see- there lies Sugarcandy Mountain, that happy country where 
we poor animals shall rest for ever from our labours!’ He even claimed to have 
been there on one of his highter flights, and to have seen the everlasting fields 
of clover and the linseed cake and lump sugar growing on the hedges. Many of 



Animal Farm 57 

the animals believed him. Their lives now, they reasoned, were hungry and 
laborious; was it not right and just that a better world should exist somewhere 
else? A thing that was difficult to determine was the attitude of the pigs towards 
Moses. They all declared contemptuously that his stories about Sugarcandy 
Mountain were lies, and yet they allowed him to remain on the farm, not 
working, with an allowance of a gill of beer a day. 

After his hoof had healed up. Boxer worked harder than ever. Indeed, all the 
animals worked like slaves that year. Apart from the regular work of the farm, 
and the rebuilding of the windmill, there was the schoolhouse for the young 
pigs, which was started in March. Sometimes the long hours on insufficient 
food were hard to bear, but Boxer never faltered. In nothing that he said or did 
was there any sign that his strength was not what it had been. It was only his 
appearance that was a little altered; his hide was less shiny than it had used to 
be, and his great haunches seemed to have shrunken. The others said, ‘Boxer 
will pick up when the spring grass comes on’; but the spring came and Boxer 
grew no fatter. Sometimes on the slope leading to the top of the quarry, when 
he braced his muscles against the weight of some vast boulder, it seemed that 
nothing kept him on his feet except the will to continue. At such times his lips 
were seen to form the words, ‘I will work harder’; he had no voice left. Once 
again Clover and Benjamin warned him to take care of his health, but Boxer 
paid no attention. His twelfth birthday was approaching. He did not care what 
happened so long as a good store of stone was accumulated before he went on 
pension. 

Late one evening in the summer, a sudden rumour ran round the farm that 
something had happened to Boxer. He had gone out alone to drag a load of 
stone down to the windmill. And sure enough, the rumour was true. A few 
minutes later two pigeons came racing in with the news: ‘Boxer has fallen! He 
is lying on his side and can’t get up!’ 

About half the animals on the farm rushed out to the knoll where the 
windmill stood. There lay Boxer, between the shafts of the cart, his neck 
stretched out, unable even to raise his head. His eyes were glazed, his sides 
matted with sweat. A thin stream of blood had trickled out of his mouth. 
Clover dropped to her knees at his side. 

‘Boxer!’ she cried ‘how are you?’ 

‘It is my lung,’ said Boxer in a weak voice. ‘It does not matter. I think you 
will be able to finish the windmill without me. There is a pretty good store of 
stone accumulated. I had only another month to go in any case. To tell you the 
truth, I had been looking forward to my retirement. And perhaps, as Benjamin 
is growing old too, they will let him retire at the same time and be a companion 
to me.’ 

‘We must get help at once,’ said Clover. ‘Run, somebody, and tell Squealer 
what has happened.’ 

All the other animals immediately raced back to the farmhouse to give 
Squealer the news. Only Clover remained, and Benjamin, who lay down at 
Boxer’s side, and, without speaking, kept the flies off him with his long tail. 
After about a quarter of an hour Squealer appeared, full of sympathy and 



Animal Farm 


58 

concern. He said that Comrade Napoleon had learned with the very deepest 
distress of this misfortune to one of the most loyal workers on the farm, and 
was already making arrangements to send Boxer to be treated in the hospital at 
Wilhngdon. The animals felt a little uneasy at this. Except for Mollie and 
Snowball, no other animals had ever left the farm, and they did not like to 
think of their sick comrade in the hands of human beings. However, Squealer 
easily convinced them that the veterinary surgeon in Willingdon could treat 
Boxer’s case more satisfactorily than could be done on the farm And about 
half an hour later, when Boxer had somewhat recovered, he was with difficulty 
got on to his feet, and managed to limp back to his stall, where Clover and 
Benjamin had prepared a good bed of straw for him. 

For the next two days Boxer remained in his stall. The pigs had sent out a 
large bottle of pink medicine which they had found in the medicine chest in the 
bathroom, and Clover administered it to Boxer twice a day after meals. In the 
evenings she lay in his stall and talked to him, while Benjamin kept the flies off 
him. Boxer professed not to be sorry for what had happened. If he made a good 
recovery, he might expect to live another three years, and he looked forward to 
the peaceful days that he would spend in the corner of the big pasture. It would 
be the first time that he had had leisure to study and improve his mind. He 
intended, he said, to devote the rest of his life to learning the remaining 
twenty-two letters of the alphabet. 

However, Benjamin and Clover could only be with Boxer after working 
hours, and it was in the middle of the day when the van came to take him away. 
The animals were all at work weeding turnips under the supervision of a pig, 
when they were astonished to see Benjamin come galloping from the direction 
of the farm buildings, braying at the top of his voice. It was the first time that 
they had ever seen Benjamin excited-indeed, it was the first time that anyone 
had ever seen him gallop. ‘Quick, quick!’ he shouted. ‘Come at once! They’re 
taking Boxer away!’ Without waiting for orders from the pig, the animals 
broke off work and raced back to the farm buildings. Sure enough, there in the 
yard was a large closed van, drawn by two horses, with lettering on its side and 
a sly-looking man in a low-crowned bowler hat sitting on the driver’s seat. And 
Boxer’s stall was empty. 

The animals crowded round the van. ‘Good-bye, Boxer!’ they chorused, 
‘good-bye!’ 

‘Fools! Fools!’ shouted Benjamin, prancing round them and stamping the 
earth with his small hoofs. ‘Fools! Do you not see what is written on the side of 
that van?’ 

That gave the animals pause, and there was a hush. Muriel began to spell out 
the words. But Benjamin pushed her aside and in the midst of a deadly silence 
he read: 

‘“Alfred Simmonds, Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler, Willingdon. Dealer 
in Hides and Bone-Meal. Kennels Supplied,” Do you not understand what 
that means? They are taking Boxer to the knacker’s!’ 

A cry of horror burst from all the animals. At this moment the man on the 
box whipped up his horses and the van moved out of the yard at a smart trot. 



Animal Farm 59 

All the animals followed, crying out at the tops of their voices. Clover forced 
her way to the front.- The van began to gather speed. Clover tried to stir her 
stout limbs to a gallop, and achieved a canter. ‘Boxer!’ she cried. ‘Boxer! 
Boxer! Boxer!’ And just at this moment, as though he had heard the uproar 
outside. Boxer’s face, with the white stripe down his nose, appeared at the 
small window at the back of the van. 

‘Boxer!’ cried Clover in a terrible voice. ‘Boxer! Get out! Get out quickly! 
They are taking you to your death!’ 

All the animals took up the cry of ‘Get out, Boxer, get out!’ But the van was 
already gathering speed and drawing away from them. It was uncertain 
whether Boxer had understood what Clover had said. But a moment later his 
face disappeared from the window and there was the sound of a tremendous 
drumming of hoofs inside the van. He was trying to kick his way out. The time 
had been when a few kicks from Boxer’s hoofs would have smashed the van to 
matchwood. But alas! his strength had left him; and in a few moments the 
sound of drumming hoofs grew fainter and died away. In desperation the 
animals began appealing to the two horses which drew the van to stop. 
‘Comrades, comrades!’ they shouted. ‘Don’t take your own brother to this 
death!’ But the stupid brutes, too ignorant to realize what was happening, 
merely set back their ears and quickened their pace. Boxer’s face did not 
reappear at the window. Too late, someone thought of racing ahead and 
shutting the five-barred gate; but in another moment the van was through it 
and rapidly disappearing down the road. Boxer was never seen again. 

Three days later it was announced that he had died in the hospital at 
Willingdon, in spite of receiving every attention a horse could have. Squealer 
came to announce the news to the others. He had, he said, been present during 
Boxer’s last hours. 

‘It was the most affecting sight I have ever seen!’ said Squealer, lifting his 
trotter and wiping away a tear. ‘I was at his bedside at the very last. And at the 
end, almost too weak to speak, he whispered in my ear that his sole sorrow was 
to have passed on before the windmill was finished. “Forward, comrades!” he 
whispered. “Forward in the name of the Rebellion. Long Live Animal Farm! 
Long live Comrade Napoleon! Napoleon is always right.” Those were his very 
last words, comrades.’ 

Here Squealer’s demeanour suddenly changed. He fell silent for a moment, 
and his little eyes darted suspicious glances from side to side before he 
proceeded. 

It had come to his knowledge, he said, that a foolish and wicked rumour had 
been circulated at the time of Boxer’s removal. Some of the animals had 
noticed that the van which took Boxer away was marked ‘Horse Slaughterer’, 
and had actually jumped to the conclusion that Boxer was being sent to the 
knacker’s. It was almost unbelievable, said Squealer, that any animal could be 
so stupid. Surely, he cried indignantly, whisking his tail and skipping from 
side to side, surely they knew their beloved Leader, Comrade Napoleon, better 
than that? But the explanation was tealiy very simple. The van had previously 
been the property of the knacker, and had been bought by the veterinary 



60 Animal Farm 

surgeon, who had not yet painted the old name out. That was how the mistake 
had arisen. 

The animals were enormously relieved to hear this. And when Squealer 
went on to give further graphic details of Boxer’s death bed, the admirable care 
he had received, and the expensive medicines for which Napoleon had paid 
without a thought as to the cost, their last doubts disappeared and the sorrow 
that they felt for their comrade’s death was tempered by the thought that at 
least he had died happy. 

Napoleon himself appeared at the meeting on the following Sunday 
morning and pronounced a short oration in Boxer’s honour. It had not been 
possible, he said, to bring back their lamented comrade’s remains for 
interment on the farm, but he had ordered a large wreath to be made from the 
laurels in the farmhouse garden and sent down to be placed on Boxer’s grave. 
And in a few days’ time the pigs intended to hold a memorial banquet in 
Boxer’s honour. Napoleon ended his speech with a reminder of Boxer’s two 
favourite maxims, ‘I will work harder’ and ‘Comrade Napoleon is always 
right’-maxims, he said, which every animal would do well to adopt as his own. 

On the day appointed for the banquet, a grocer’s van drove up from 
Willingdon and delivered a large wooden crate at the farmhouse. That night 
there was the sound of uproarious singing, which was followed by what 
sounded like a violent quarrel and ended at about eleven o’clock with a 
tremendous crash of glass. No one stirred in the farmhouse before noon on the 
following day, and the word went round that from somewhere or other the pigs 
had acquired the money to buy themselves another case of whisky. 


10 


Years passed. The seasons came and went, the short animal lives fled by. A 
time came when there was no one who remembered the old days before the 
Rebellion, except Clover, Benjamin, Moses the raven, and a number of the 
pigs. 

Muriel was dead; Bluebell, Jessie, and Pincher were dead. Jones too was 
dead-he had died in an inebriates’ home in another part of the country. 
Snowball was forgotten. Boxer was forgotten, except by the few who had 
known him. Clover was an old stout mare now, stiff in the joints, and with a 
tendency to rheumy eyes. She was two years past the retiring age, but in fact no 
animal had ever actually retired. The talk of setting aside a corner of the 
pasture for superannuated animals had long since been dropped. Napoleon 
was now a mature boar of twenty-four stone. Squealer was so fat that he could 
with difficulty see out of his eyes. Only old Benjamin was much the same as 
ever, except for being a little greyer about the muzzle, and, since Boxer’ death. 



Animal Farm 


61 


more morose and taciturn than ever. 

There were many more creatures on the farm now, though the increase was 
not so great as had been expected in earlier years. Many animals had been born 
to whom the Rebellion was only a dim tradition, passed on by word of mouth, 
and others had been bought who had never heard mention of such a thing 
before their arrival. The farm possessed three horses now besides Clover. 
They were fine upstanding beasts, willing workers and good comrades, but 
very stupid. None of them proved able to learn the alphabet beyond the letter 
B. They accepted everything that they were told about the Rebellion and the 
principles of Animalism, especially from Clover, for whom they had an almost 
filial respect; but it was doubtful whether they understood very much of it. 

The farm was more prosperous now, and better organized: it had even been 
enlarged by two fields which had been bought from Mr Pilkington. The 
windmill had been successfully completed at last, and the farm possessed a 
threshing machine and a hay elevator of its own, and various new buildings 
had been added to it. Whymper had bought himself a dogcart. The windmill, 
however, had not after all been used for generating electrical power. It was 
used for milling corn, and brought in a handsome money profit. The animals 
were hard at work building yet another windmill; when that one was finished, 
so it was said, the dynamos would be installed. But the luxuries of which 
Snowball had once taught the animals to dream, the stalls with electric light 
and hot and cold water, and the three-day week, were no longer talked about. 
Napoleon had denounced such ideas as contrary to the spirit of Animalism. 
The truest happiness, he said, lay in working hard and living frugally. 

Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making 
the animals themselves any ncher-except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs. 
Perhaps this was partly because there were so many pigs and so many dogs. It 
was not that these creatures did not work, after their fashion. There was, as 
Squealer was never tired of explaining, endless work in the supervision and 
organization of the farm. Much of this work was of a kind that the other 
animals were too ignorant to understand. For example. Squealer told them 
that the pigs had to expend enormous labours every day upon mysterious 
things called ‘files’, ‘reports’, ‘minutes’, and ‘memoranda’. These were large 
sheets of paper which had to be closely covered with writing, and as soon as 
they were so covered, they were burnt in the furnace. This was of the highest 
importance for the welfare of the farm, Squealer said. But still, neither pigs nor 
dogs produced any food by their own labour; and there were very many of 
them, and their appetites were always good. 

As for the others, their life, so far as they knew, was as it had always been. 
They were generally hungry, they slept on straw, they drank from the pool, 
they laboured in the fields; in winter they were troubled by the cold, and in the 
summer by the flies. Sometimes the older ones among them racked their dim 
memories and tried to determine whether in the early days of the Rebellion, 
when Jones’s expulsion was still recent, things had been better or worse than 
now. They could not remember. There was nothing with which they could 
compare their present lives: they had nothing to go upon except Squealer’s 



62 


Animal Farm 


lists of figures, which invariably demonstrated that everything was getting 
better and better. The animals found the problem insoluble; in any case, they 
had little time for speculating on such things now. Only old Benjamin 
professed to remember every detail of his long life and to know that things 
never had been, nor ever could be much better or much worse-hunger, 
hardship, and disappointment being, so he said, the unalterable law of life. 

And yet the animals never gave up hope. More, they never lost, even for an 
instant, their sense of honour and privilege in being members of Animal Farm. 
They were still the only farm in the whole county-in all England! -owned and 
operated by animals. Not one of them, not even the youngest, not even the 
newcomers who had been brought from farms ten or twenty miles away, ever 
ceased to marvel at that. And when they heard the gun booming and saw the 
green flag fluttering at the masthead, their hearts swelled with imperishable 
pride, and the talk always turned towards the old heroic days, the expulsion of 
Jones, the writing of the Seven Commandments, the great battles in which the 
human invaders had been defeated. None of the old dreams had been 
abandoned. The Republic of the Animals which Major had foretold, when the 
green fields of England should be untrodden by human feet, was still believed 
in. Some day it was coming: it might not be soon, it might not be within the 
lifetime of any animal now living, but still it was coming. Even the tune of 
‘Beasts of England’ was perhaps hummed secretly here and there: at any rate, it 
was a fact that every animal on the farm knew it, though no one would have 
dared to sing it aloud. It might be that their lives were hard and that not all of 
their hopes had been fulfilled; but they were conscious that they were not as 
other animals. If they went hungry, it was not from feeding tyrannical human 
beings; if they worked hard, at least they worked for themselves. No creature 
among them went upon two legs. No creature called any other creature 
‘Master’. All animals were equal. 

One day m early summer Squealer ordered the sheep to follow him, and led 
them out to a piece of waste ground at the other end of the farm, which had 
become overgrown with birch saplings. The sheep spent the whole day there 
browsing at the leaves under Squealer’s supervision. In the evening he 
returned to the farmhouse himself, but, as it was warm weather, told the sheep 
to stay where they were. It ended by their remaining there for a whole week, 
during which time the other animals saw nothing of them. Squealer was with 
them for the greater part of every day. He was, he said, teaching them to sing a 
new song, for which privacy was needed. 

It was just after the sheep had returned, on a pleasant evening when the 
animals had finished work and were making their way back to the farm 
buildings, that the terrified neighing of a horse sounded from the yard. 
Startled, the animals stopped in the tracks. It was Clover’s voice. She neighed 
again, and all the animals broke into a gallop and rushed into the yard. Then 
they saw what Clover had seen. 

It was a pig walking on his hind legs. 

Yes, it was Squealer. A little awkwardly, as though not quite used to 
supporting his considerable bulk in that position, but with' perfect balance, he 



Animal Farm 


63 

was strolling across the yard. And a moment later, out from the door of the 
farmhouse came a long file of pigs, all walking on their hind legs. Some did it 
better than others, one or two were even a trifle unsteady and looked as though 
they would have liked the support of a stick, but every one of them made his 
way right round the yard successfully. And finally there was a tremendous 
baying of dogs and a shrill crowing from the black cockerel, and out came 
Napoleon himself, majestically upright, casting haughty glances from side to 
side, and with his dogs gambolling round him. 

He carried a whip in his trotter. 

There was a deadly silence. Amazed, terrified, huddling together, the 
animals watched the long line of pigs march slowly round the yard. It was as 
though the world had turned upside-down. Then there came a moment when 
the first shock had worn off and when, in spite of everything-in spite of their 
terror of the dogs, and of the habit, developed through long years, of never 
complaining, never criticizing, no matter what happened-they might have 
uttered some word of protest. But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all 
the sheep burst out into a tremendous bleating of- 

‘Four legs good, two legs better\ Four legs good, two legs betterl Four legs 
good, two legs betterV 

It went on for five minutes without stopping. And by the time the sheep had 
quieted down, the chance to utter any protest had passed, for the pigs had 
marched back into the farmhouse. 

Benjamin felt a nose nuzzling at his shoulder. He looked round. It was 
Clover. Her old eyes looked dimmer than ever. Without saying anything, she 
tugged gently at his mane and led him round to the end of the big barn, where 
the Seven Commandments were written. For a minute or two they stood 
gazing at the tarred wall with its white lettering. 

‘My sight is failing,’ she said finally. ‘Even when I was young I could not 
have read what was written there. But it appears to me that that wall looks 
different. Are the Seven Commandments the same as they used to be, 
Benjamin?’ 

For once Benjamin consented to break his rule, and he read out to her what 
was written on the wail. There was nothing there now except a single 
Commandment. It ran: 


ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL 
BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE 
EQUAL THAN OTHERS 

After that it did not seem strange when next day the pigs who were 
supervising the work of the farm all carried whips in their trotters. It did not 
seem strange to learn that the pigs had bought themselves a wireless set, were 
arranging to install a telephone, and had taken out subscriptions to John Bull, 
Tit-Bits , and the Daily Mirror . It did not seem strange when Napoleon was 
seen strolling in the farmhouse garden with a pipe in hismouth-no, not even 



Animal Farm 


64 

when the pigs took Mr Jones’s clothes out of the wardrobes and put them on. 
Napoleon himself appearing in a black coat, ratcatcher breeches, and leather 
leggings, while his favourite sow appeared in the watered silk dress which Mrs 
Jones had been used to wear on Sundays. ' 

A week later, in the afternoon, a number of dogcarts drove up to the farm. A 
deputation of neighbouring farmers had been invited to make a tour of 
inspection. They were shown all over the farm, and expressed great admiration 
for everything they saw, especially the windmill. The animals were weeding 
the turnip field. They worked diligently, hardly raising their faces from the 
ground, and not knowing whether to be more frightened of the pigs or of the 
human visitiors. 

That evening loud laughter and bursts of singing came from the farmhouse. 
And suddenly, at the sound of the mingled voices, the animals were stricken 
with curiosity. What could be happening in there, now that for the first time 
animals and human beings were meeting on terms of equality? With one 
accord they began to creep as quietly as possible into the farmhouse garden. 

At the gate they paused, half frightened to go on, but Clover led the way in. 
They tiptoed up to the house, and such animals as were tall enough peered in at 
the dining-room window. There, round the long table, sat half a dozen farmers 
and half a dozen of the more eminent pigs, Napoleon himself occupying the 
seat of honour at the head of the table. The pigs appeared completely at ease in 
their chairs. The company had been enjoying a game of cards, but had broken 
off for a moment, evidently in order to drink a toast. A large jug was 
circulating, and the mugs were being refilled with beer. No one noticed the 
wondering faces of the animals that gazed in at the window. 

Mr Pilkington of Foxwood, had stood up, his mug in his hand. In a moment, 
he said, he would ask the present company to drink a toast. But before doing 
so, there were a few words that he felt it incumbent upon him to say. 

It was a source of great satisfaction to him, he said-and, he was sure, to all 
others present- to feel that a long period of mistrust and misunderstanding had 
now come to an end. There had been a time-not that he, or any of the present 
company, had shared such sentiments-but there had been a time when the 
respected proprietors of Animal Farm had been regarded, he would not say 
with hostility, but perhaps with a certain measure of misgiving, by their 
human neighbours. Unfortunate incidents had occurred, mistaken ideas had 
been current. It had been felt that the existence of a farm owned and operated 
by pigs was somehow abnormal and was liable to have an unsettling effect in 
the neighbourhood. Too many farmers had assumed without due inquiry, that 
on such a farm a spirit of licence and indiscipline would prevail. They had been 
nervous about the effects upon their own animals, or even upon their human 
employees. But all such doubts were now dispelled. Today he and his friends 
had visited Animal Farm and inspected every inch of it with their own eyes, 
and what did they find? Not only the most up-to-date methods, but a discipline 
and an orderliness which should be an example to all farmers everywhere. He 
believed that he was right in saying that the lower animals on Animal Farm did 
more work and received less food than any animals in the county. Indeed, he 



Animal Farm 6 5 

and his fellow visitors today had observed many features which they intended 
to introduce on their own farms immediately. 

He would end his remarks, he said, by emphasizing once again the friendly 
feelings that subsisted, and ought to subsist, between Animal Farm and its 
neighbours. Between pigs arid human beings there was not, and there need not 
be, any clash of interests whatever. Their struggles and their difficulties were 
one. Was not the labour problem the same everywhere? Here it became 
apparent that Mr Pilkington was about to spring some carefully prepared 
witticism on the company, but for a moment he was too overcome by 
amusement to be able to utter it. After much choking, during which his various 
chins turned purple, he managed to get it out: ‘If you have your lower animals 
to contend with,’ he said, ‘we have our lower classes!’ This bon mot set the table 
in a roar; and Mr Pilkington once again congratulated the pigs on the low 
rations, the long working hours, and the general absence of pampering which 
he had observed on Animal Farm. 

And now, he said finally, he would ask the company to rise on their feet and 
make certain that their glasses were full. ‘Gentlemen,’ concluded Mr 
Pilkington, ‘gentlemen, I give you a toast: to the prosperity of Animal Farm!’ 

There was enthusiastic cheering and stamping of feet. Napoleon was so 
gratified that he left his place and came round the table to clink his mug against 
Mr Pilkington’s before emptying it. When the cheering had died down, 
Napoleon, who had remained on his feet, intimated that he too had a few words 
to say. 

Like all of Napoleon’s speeches, it was short and to the point. He too, he 
said, was happy that the period of misunderstanding was at an end. For a long 
time there had been rumours-circulated, he had reason to think, by some 
malignant enemy-that there was something subversive and even re- 
volutionary in the outlook of himself and his colleagues. They had been 
credited with attempting to stir up rebellion among the animals on 
neighbouring farms. Nothing could be further from the truth! Their sole wish, 
now and in the past, was to live at peace and in normal business relations with 
their neighbours. This farm which he had the honour to control, he added, was 
a co-operative enterprise. The title-deeds, which were in his own possession, 
were owned by the pigs jointly. 

He did not believe, he said, that any of the old suspicions still lingered, but 
certain changes had been made recently in the routine of the farm which 
should have the effect of promoting confidence still further. Hitherto the 
animals on the farm had had a rather foolish custom of addressing one another 
as ‘Comrade’. This was to be suppressed. There had also been a very strange 
custom, whose origin was unknown, of marching every Sunday morning past a 
boar’s skull which was nailed to a post in the garden. This, too, would be 
suppressed, and the skull had already been buried. His visitors might have 
observed, too, the green flag which flew from the masthead. If so, they would 
perhaps have noted that the white hoof and horn with which it had previously 
been marked had now been removed. It would be a plain green flag from now 
onwards. 



66 


Animal Farm 


He had only one criticism, he said, to make of Mr Pilkington’s excellent and 
neighbourly speech. Mr Pilkington had referred throughout to ‘Animal 
Farm’. He could not of course know-for he, Napoleon, was only now for the 
first time announcing it-that the name, ‘Animal Farm 5 had been abolished. 
Henceforward the farm was to be known as the ‘Manor Farm 5 -which, he 
believed, was its correct and original name. 

‘Gentlemen , 5 concluded Napoleon, ‘I will give you the same toast as before, 
but in a different form. Fill your glasses to the brim. Gentlemen, here is my 
toast: To the prosperity of the Manor Farm ! 5 

There was the same hearty cheering as before, and the mugs were emptied to 
the dregs. But as the animals outside gazed at the scene, it seemed to them that 
some strange thing was happening. What was it that had altered in the faces of 
the pigs? Clover’s old dim eyes flitted from one face to another. Some of them 
had five chins, some had four, some had three. But what was it that seemed to 
be melting and changing. Then, the applause having come to an end, the 
company took up their cards and continued the game that had been 
interrupted, and the animals crept silently away. 

But they had not gone twenty yards when they stopped short. An uproar of 
voices was coming from the farmhouse. They rushed back and looked through 
the window again. Yes, a violent quarrel was in progress. There were 
shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials. 
The source of the trouble appeared to be that Napoleon and Mr Pilkington had 
each played an ace of spades simultaneously. 

Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, 
now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked 
| from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already 
\ it was impossible to say which was which. 


November 1943-February 1944 





BURMESE DAYS 
‘This desert inaccessible 
Under the shade of melancholy boughs’ 

As you like it. 



I 


U Po Kyin, Sub-divisional Magistrate of Kyauktada, in Upper Burma, was 
sitting in his veranda. It was only half past eight, but the month was April, and 
there was a closeness in the air, a threat of the long, stifling midday hours. 
Occasional faint breaths of wind, seeming cool by contrast, stirred the newly 
drenched orchids that hung from the eaves. Beyond the orchids one could see 
the dusty, curved trunk of a palm tree, and then the blazing ultramarine sky. 
Up in the zenith, so high that it dazzled one to look at them, a few vultures 
circled without the quiver of a wing. 

Unblinking, rather like a great porcelain idol, U Po Kyin gazed out into the 
fierce sunlight. He was a man of fifty, so fat that for years he had not risen from 
his chair without help, and yet shapely and even beautiful in his grossness; for 
the Burmese do not sag and bulge like white men, but grow fat symmetrically, 
like fruits swelling. His face was vast, yellow and quite unwrinkled, and his 
eyes were tawny. His feet-squat, high-arched feet with the toes all the same 
length- were bare, and so was his cropped head, and he wore one of those vivid 
Arakanese longyis with green and magenta checks which the Burmese wear on 
informal occasions. He was chewing betel from a lacquered box on the table, 
and thinking about his past life. 

It had been a brilliantly successful life. U Po Kyin’s earliest memory, back in 
the eighties, was of standing, a naked pot-bellied child, watching the British 
troops march victorious into Mandalay. He remembered the terror he had felt 
of those columns of great beef-fed men, red-faced and red-coated; and the long 
rifles over their shoulders, and the heavy, rhythmic tramp of their boots. He 
had taken to his heels after watching them for a few minutes. In his childish 
way he had grasped that his own people were no match for this race of giants. 
To fight on the side of the British, to become a parasite upon them, had been 
his ruling ambition, even as a child. 

At seventeen he had tried for a Government appointment, but he had failed 
to get it, being poor and friendless, and for three years he had worked in the 
stinking labyrinth of the Mandalay bazaars, clerking for the rice merchants 
and sometimes stealing. Then when he was twenty a lucky stroke of blackmail 
put Mm in possession of four hundred rupees, and he went at once to Rangoon 
and bought Ms way into a Government clerkship. The job was a lucrative one 
though the salary was small. At that time a ring of clerks were making a steady 
income by misappropriating Government stores, and Po Kyin (he was plain Po 
Kyin then* the honorific U came years later) took naturally to this kind of 



74 Burmese Days 

thing. However, he had too much talent to spend his life in a clerkship, stealing 
miserably in annas and pice. One day he discovered that the Government, 
being short of minor officials, were going to make some appointments from 
among the clerks. The news would have become public in another week, but it 
was one of Po Kyin’s qualities that his information was always a week ahead of 
everyone else’s. He saw his chance and denounced all his confederates before 
they could take alarm. Most of them were sent to prison, and Po Kyin was 
made an Assistant Township Officer as the reward of his honesty. Since then 
he had risen steadily. Now, at fifty-six, he was a Sub-divisional Magistrate, 
and he would probably be promoted still further and made an acting Deputy 
Commissioner, with Englishmen as his equals and even his subordinates. 

As a magistrate his methods were simple. Even for the vastest bribe he would 
never sell the decision of a case, because he knew that a magistrate who gives 
wrong judgments is caught sooner or later. His practice, a much safer one, was 
to take bribes from both sides and then decide the case on strictly legal 
grounds. This won him a useful reputation for impartiality. Besides his 
revenue from litigants, U Po Kyin levied a ceaseless toll, a sort of private 
taxation scheme, from all the villages under his jurisdiction. If any village 
failed in its tribute U Po Kyin took punitive measures-gangs of dacoits 
attacked the village, leading villagers were arrested on false charges, and so 
forth-and it was never long before the amount was paid up. He also shared the 
proceeds of all the larger-sized robberies that took place in the district. Most of 
this, of course, was known to everyone except U Po Kyin’s official superiors 
(no British officer will ever believe anything against his own men) but the 
attempts to expose him invariably failed; his supporters, kept loyal by their 
share of the loot, were too numerous. When any accusation was brought 
against him, U Po Kyin simply discredited it with strings of suborned 
witnesses, following this up by counter-accusations which left him in a 
stronger position than ever. He was practically invulnerable, because he was 
too fine a judge of men ever to choose a wrong instrument, and also, because he 
was too absorbed in intrigue ever to fail through carelessness or ignorance. 
One could say with practical certainty that he would never be found out, that 
he would go from success to success, and would finally die full of honour, 
worth several lakhs of rupees. 

And even beyond the grave his success would continue. According to 
Buddhist belief, those who have done evil m their lives will spend the next 
incarnation in the shape of a rat, a frog orsome other low animal. U Po Kyin 
was a good .Buddhist and intended to provide against this danger. He would 
devote his closing years to good works, which would pile up enough merit to 
outweigh the rest of his life. Probably his good works would take the form of 
building pagodas. Four pagodas, five, six, seven-the priests would tell him 
how many-with carved stonework, gilt umbrellas and little bells that tinkled 
in the wind, every tinkle a prayer. And he would Teturn to the earth in male 
human shape- for a woman ranks at about the same level as a rat or a frog-or at 
best as some dignified beast such as an elephant. 

All these thoughts flowed through U Po Kyin’s mind swiftly and for the 



Burmese Days 75 

most part in pictures. His brain, though cunmng, was quite barbaric, and it 
never worked except for some definite end; mere meditation was beyond him. 
He had now reached the point to which his thoughts had been tending. Putting 
his smallish, triangular hands on the arms of his chair, he turned himself a little 
way round and called, rather wheezily: 

c Ba Talk! Hey, Ba Taik!’ 

Ba Taik, U Po Kyin’s servant, appeared through the beaded curtain of the 
veranda. He was an under-sized, pock-marked man with a timid and rather 
hungry expression. U Po Kyin paid him no wages, for he was a convicted thief 
whom a word would send to prison. As Ba Taik advanced he shikoed, so low as 
to give the impression that he was stepping backwards. 

‘Most holy god?’ he said. 

‘Is anyone waiting to see me, Ba Taik? 7 

Ba Taik enumerated the visitors upon his fingers - ‘There is the headman of 
Thitpingyi village, your honour, who has brought presents, and two villagers 
who have an assault case that is to be tried by your honour, and they too have 
brought presents. Ko Ba Sein, the head clerk of the Deputy Commissioner’s 
office, wishes to see you, and there is Ali Shah, the police constable, and a 
dacoit whose name I do not know. I think they have quarrelled about some 
gold bangles they have stolen. And there is also a young village girl with a 
baby. 7 

‘What does she want? 7 said U Po Kyin. 

‘She says that the baby is yours, most holy one. 7 

‘Ah. And how much has the headman brought? 7 

Ba Taik thought it was only ten rupees and a basket of mangoes. 

‘Tell the headman, 7 said U Po Kyin, ‘that it should be twenty rupees, and 
there will be trouble for him and his village if the money is not here tomorrow. 
I will see the others presently. Ask Ko Ba Sein to come to me here. 7 

Ba Sein appeared in a moment. He was an erect, narrow-shouldered man, 
very tall for a Burman, with a curiously smooth face that recalled a coffee 
blancmange. U Po Kyin found him a useful tool. Unimaginative and hard- 
working, he was an excellent clerk, and Mr Macgregor, the Deputy 
Commissioner, trusted him with most of his official secrets, U Po Kyin, put in 
a good temper by his thoughts, greeted Ba Sein with a laugh and waved to the 
betel box. 

‘Well, Ko Ba Sein, how does our affair progress? I hope that, as dear Mr 
Macgregor would say 7 -U Po Kyin broke into English-‘“eet ees making 
perceptible progress 77 ? 7 

Ba Sein did not smile at the small joke. Sitting down stiff and long-backed in 
the vacant chair, he answered: 

‘Excellently, sir. Our copy of the paper arrived this morning. Kindly 
observe. 7 

He produced a copy of a bilingual paper called the Burmese Patriot. It was a 
miserable eight-page rag, villainously printed on paper as bad as blotting 
paper, and composed partly of news stolen from the Rangoon Gazette, partly of 
weak Nationalist heroics. On the last page the type had slipped and left the 



y6 Burmese Days 

entire sheet jet black, as though in mourning for the smallness of the paper’s 
circulation. The article to which U Po Kyin turned was of a rather different 
stamp from the rest. It ran: 

In these happy times, when we poor blacks are being uplifted by the mighty western civilization, 
with its manifold blessings such as the cinematograph, machine-guns, syphilis, etc , what subject 
could be more inspiring than the private lives of our European benefactors’ We think therefore 
that it may interest our readers to hear something of events in the up-country district of 
Kyauktada And especially of Mr Macgregor, honoured Deputy Commissioner of said district 

Mr Macgregor is of the type of the Fine Old English Gentleman, such as, in these happy days, 
we have so many examples before our eyes He is ‘a family man’ as our dear English cousins say 
Very much a family man is Mr Macgregor So much so that he has already three children in the 
district of Kyauktada, where he has been a year, and in his last district of Shwemyo he left six 
young progenies behind him Perhaps it is an oversight on Mr Macgxegor’s part that he has left 
these young infants quite unprovided for, and that some of their mothers are in danger of 
starvation, etc , etc., etc 

There was a column of similar stuff, and wretched as it was, it was well above 
the level of the rest of the paper. U Po Kyin read the article carefully through, 
holding it at arm’s length-he was long-sighted-and drawing his lips 
meditatively back, exposing great numbers of small, perfect teeth, blood-red 
from betel juice. 

‘The editor will get six months’ imprisonment for this,’ he said finally. 

‘He does not mind. He says that the only time when his creditors leave him 
alone is when he is in prison.’ 

‘And you say that your little apprentice clerk Hla Pe wrote this article all by 
himself? That is a very clever boy-a most promising boy! Never tell me again 
that these Government High Schools are a waste of time. Hla Pe shall certainly 
have his clerkship.’ 

‘You think then, sir, that this article will be enough?’ 

U Po Kyin did not answer immediately. A puffing, labouring noise began to 
proceed from him; he was trying to rise from his chair. Ba Taik was familiar 
with this sound. He appeared from behind the beaded curtain, and he and Ba 
Sein put a hand under each of U Po Kyin’s armpits and hoisted him to his feet. 
U Po Kyin stood for a moment balancing the weight of his belly upon his legs, 
with the movement of a fish porter adjusting his load. Then he waved Ba Taik 
away. 

‘Not enough,’ he said, answering Ba Sein’s question, ‘not enough by any 
means. There is a lot to be done yet. But this is the right beginning. Listen.’ 

He went to the rail to spit out a scarlet mouthful of betel, and then began to 
quarter the veranda with short steps, his hands behind his back. The friction of 
his vast thighs made him waddle slightly. As he walked he talked, in the base 
jargon of the Government offices-a patchwork of Burmese verbs and English 
abstract phrases: 

‘Now, let us go into this affair from the beginning. We are going to make a 
concerted attack on Dr Veraswami, who is the Civil .Surgeon and 
Superintendent of the jail. We are going to slander him, destroy his reputation 
and finally ruin him for ever. It will be rather a delicate operation.’ 

‘Yes, sir.’ 



Burmese Days 77 

‘There will be no risk, but we have got to go slowly. We are not proceeding 
against a miserable clerk or police constable. We are proceeding against a high 
official and with a high official, even when he is an Indian, it is not the same as 
with a clerk. How does one ruin a clerk? Easy; an accusation, two dozen 
witnesses, dismissal and imprisonment. But that will not do here. Softly, 
softly, softly is my way. No scandal, and above all no official inquiry. There 
must be no accusations that can be answered, and yet within three months I 
must fix it in the head of every European m Kyauktada that the doctor is a 
villain. What shall I accuse him of? Bribes will not do, a doctor does not get 
bribes to any extent. What then?’ 

‘We could perhaps arrange a mutiny in the jail,’ said Ba Sein. ‘As 
superintendent, the doctor would be blamed.’ 

‘No, it is too dangerous. I do not want the jail warders firing their rifles in all 
directions. Besides, it would be expensive. Clearly, then, it must be 
disloyalty-Nationalism, seditious propaganda. We must persuade the 
Europeans that the doctor holds disloyal, anti-British opinions. That is far 
worse than bribery; they expect a native official to take bribes. But let them 
suspect his loyalty even for a moment, and he is ruined.’ 

‘It would be a hard thing to prove,’ objected Ba Sein. ‘The doctor is very 
loyal to the Europeans. He grows angry when anything is said against them. 
They will know that, do you not think?’ 

‘Nonsense, nonsense,’ said U Po Kyin comfortably. ‘No European cares 
anything about proofs. When a man has a black face, suspicion is proof. A few 
anonymous letters will work wonders. It is only a question of persisting; 
accuse, accuse, go on accusing-that is the way with Europeans. One 
anonymous letter after another, to every European in turn. And then, when 
their suspicions are thoroughly aroused-’ U Po Kyin brought one short arm 
from behind his back and clicked his thumb and finger. He added: ‘We begin 
with this article in the Burmese Patriot. The Europeans will shout with rage 
when they see it. Well, the next move is to persuade them that it was the doctor 
who wrote it.’ 

‘It will be difficult while he has friends among the Europeans. All of them go 
to him when they are ill. He cured Mr Macgregor of his flatulence this cold 
weather. They consider him a very clever doctor, I believe.’ 

‘How little you understand the European mind, Ko Ba Sein! If the 
Europeans go to Veraswami it is only because there is no other doctor in 
Kyauktada. No European has any faith in a man with a black face. No, with 
anonymous letters it is only a question of sending enough. I shall soon see to it 
that he has no friends left.’ 

‘There is Mr Flory, the timber merchant,’ said Ba Sein. (He pronounced it 
‘Mr Porley’.) ‘He is a close friend of the doctor. I see him go to his house every 
morning when he is in Kyauktada. Twice he has even invited the doctor to 
dinner.’ 

‘Ah, now there you are right. If Flory were a friend of the doctor it could do 
us harm. You cannot hurt an Indian when he has a European friend. It gives 
him-what is that word they are so fond of?-prestige. But Flory will desert his 



j8 Burmese Days 

friend quickly enough when the trouble begins. These people have no feeling 
of loyalty towards a native. Besides, I happen to know that Flory is a coward. I 
can deal with him. Your part, Ko Ba Sem, is to watch Mr Macgregor’s 
movements. Has he written to the Commissioner lately-written confiden- 
tially, I mean? 5 

‘He wrote two days ago, but when we steamed the letter open we found it 
was nothing of importance.’ 

‘Ah well, we will give him something to write about. And as soon as he 
suspects the doctor, then is the time for that other affair I spoke to you of. Thus 
we shall-what does Mr Macgregor say? Ah yes, “kill two birds with one 
stone”. A whole flock of birds-ha, ha!’ 

U Po Kym’s laugh was a disgusting bubbling sound deep down in his belly, 
like the preparation for a cough; yet it was merry, even childlike. He did not 
say any more about the ‘other affair’, which was too private to be discussed 
even upon the veranda. Ba Sein, seeing the interview at an end, stood up and 
bowed, angular as a jointed ruler. 

‘Is there anything else your honour wishes done?’ he said. 

‘Make sure that Mr Macgregor has his copy of the Burmese Patriot. You had 
better tell Hla Pe to have an attack of dysentery and stay away from the office. I 
shall want him for the writing of the anonymous letters. That is all for the 
present.’ 

‘Then I may go, sir?’ 

‘God go with you, 5 said U Po Kyin rather abstractedly, and at once shouted 
again for Ba Taik. He never wasted a moment of his day. It did not take him 
long to deal with the other visitors and to send the village girl away 
unrewarded, having examined her face and said that he did not recognize her. 
It was now his breakfast time. Violent pangs of hunger, which attacked him 
punctually at this hour every morning, began to torment his belly. He shouted 
urgently: 

‘Ba Taik! Hey, Ba Taik! Kin Kin! My breakfast! Be quick, I am starving.’ 

In the living-room behind the curtain a table was already set out with a huge 
bowl of rice and a dozen plates containing curries, dried prawns and sliced 
green mangoes. U Po Kyin waddled to the table, sat down with a grunt and at 
once threw himself on the food. Ma Kin, his wife, stood behind him and served 
him. She was a thin woman of five and forty, with a kindly, pale brown, simian 
face. U Po Kyin took no notice of her while he was eating. With the bowl close 
to his nose he stuffed the food into himself with swift, greasy fingers, breathing 
fast. All his meals were swift, passionate and enormous; they were not meals so 
much as orgies, debauches of curry and rice. When he had finished he sat back, 
belched several times and told Ma Kin to fetch him a green Burmese cigar. He 
never smoked English tobacco, which he declared had no taste in it. 

Presently, with Ba Taik’s help, U Po Kyin dressed in his office clothes, and 
stood for a while admiring himself in the long mirror in the living-room. It was 
a wooden-walled room with two pillars, still recognizable as teak-trunks, 
supporting the roof-tree, and it was dark and sluttish as all Burmese rooms are, 
though U Po Kyin had furnished it ‘Ingaleik fashion’ with a veneered 



Burmese Days 79 

sideboard and chairs, some lithographs of the Royal Family and a fire- 
extinguisher. The floor was covered with bamboo mats, much splashed by 
lime and betel juice. 

Ma Kin was sitting on a mat in the corner, stitching an ingyi. U Po Kyin 
turned slowly before the mirror, trying to get a glimpse of his back view. He 
was dressed in agaungbaung of pale pink silk, an ingyt of starched muslin, and a 
paso of Mandalay silk, a gorgeous salmon-pink brocaded with yellow. With an 
effort he turned his head round and looked, pleased, at the paso tight and 
shining on his enormous buttocks. He was proud of his fatness, because he saw 
the accumulated flesh as the symbol of his greatness. He who had once been 
obscure and hungry was now fat, rich and feared. He was swollen with the 
bodies of his enemies; a thought from which he extracted something very near 
poetry. 

‘My new paso was cheap at twenty-two rupees, hey, Kin Kin?’ he said. 

Ma Kin bent her head over her sewing. She was a simple, old-fashioned 
woman, who had learned even less of European habits than U Po Kyin. She 
could not sit on a chair without discomfort. Every morning she went to the 
bazaar with a basket on her head, like a village woman, and in the evenings she 
could be seen kneeling in the garden, praying to the white spire of the pagoda 
that crowned the town. She had been the confidante of U Po Kyin’s intrigues 
for twenty years and more. 

‘Ko Po Kyin,’ she said, ‘you have done very much evil in your life.’ 

U Po Kyin waved his hand. ‘What does it matter? My pagodas will atone for 
everything. There is plenty of time.’ 

Ma Kin bent her head over her sewing again, in an obstinate way she had 
when she disapproved of something that U Po Kyin was doing. 

‘But, Ko Po Kyin, where is the need for all this scheming and intriguing? I 
heard you talking with Ko Ba Sein on the veranda. You are planning some evil 
against Dr Veraswami. Why do you wish to harm that Indian doctor? He is a 
good man.’ 

‘What do you know of these official matters, woman? The doctor stands in 
my way. In the first place he refuses to take bribes, which makes it difficult for 
the rest of us. And besides-well, there is something else which you would 
never have the brains to understand.’ 

‘Ko Po Kyin, you have grown rich and powerful, and what good has it ever 
done you? We were happier when we were poor. Ah, I remember so well when 
you were only a Township Officer, the first time we had a house of our own. 
How proud we were of our new wicker furniture, and your fountain-pen with 
the gold clipl And when the young English police-officer came to our house 
and sat in the best chair and drank a bottle of beer, how honoured we thought 
ourselves! Happiness is not in money. What can you want with more money 
now?’ 

‘Nonsense, woman, nonsense! Attend to your cooking and sewing and leave 
official matters to those who understand them. 5 

‘Well, I do not know. I am your wife and have always obeyed you. But at 
least it is never too soon to acquire merit. Strive to acquire mote merit, Ko Po 



80 Burmese Days 

Kyin! Will you not, for instance, buy some live fish and set them free in the 
river? One can acquire much merit in that way. Also, this morning when 
the priests came for their rice they told me that there are two new priests at the 
monastery, and they are hungry. Will you not give them something, Ko Po 
Kyin? I did not give them anything myself, so that you might acquire the merit 
of doing it.’ 

U Po Kyin turned away from the mirror. The appeal touched him a little. 
He never, when it could be done without inconvenience, missed a chance of 
acquiring merit. In his eyes his pile of merit was a kind of bank deposit, 
everlastingly growing. Every fish set free in the river, every gift to a priest, was 
a step nearer Nirvana. It was a reassuring thought. He directed that the basket 
of mangoes brought by the village headman should be sent down to the 
monastery. 

Presently he left the house and started down the road, with Ba Taik behind 
him carrying a file of papers. He walked slowly, very upright to balance his vast 
belly, and holding a yellow silk umbrella over his head. His pink paso glittered 
in the sun like a satin praline. He was going to the court, to try his day’s cases. 


2 


At about the time when U Po Kyin began his morning’s business, ‘Mr Porley’ 
the timber merchant and friend of Dr Veraswami, was leaving his house for the 
Club. 

Flory was a man of about thirty-five, of middle height, not ill made. He had 
very black, stiff hair growing low on his head, and a cropped black moustache, 
and his skin, naturally sallow, was discoloured by the sun. Not having grown 
fat or bald he did not look older than his age, but his face was very haggard in 
spite of the sunburn, with lank cheeks and a sunken, withered look round the 
eyes. He had obviously not shaved this morning. He was dressed in the usual 
white shirt, khaki drill shorts and stockings, but instead of a topi he wore a 
battered Terai hat, cocked over one eye. He carried a bamboo stick with a 
wrist-thong, and a black cocker spaniel named Flo was ambling after him. 

All these were secondary expressions, however. The first thing that one 
noticed in Flory was a hideous birthmark stretching in a ragged crescent down 
his left cheek, from the eye to the corner of the mouth. Seen from the left side 
his face had a battered, woebegone look, as though the birthmark had been a 
bruise-for it was a dark blue in colour. He was quite aware of its hideousness. 
And at all times, when he was not alone, there was a sidelongness about his 
movements, as he manoeuvred constantly to keep the birthmark out of sight. 

Flory’s house was at the top of the maidan, close to the edge of the jungle. 
From the gate the maidan sloped sharply down, scorched and khaki-coloured, 



Burmese Days 81 

with half a dozen dazzling white bungalows scattered round it. All quaked, 
shivered in the hot air. There was an English cemetery within a white wall 
half-way down the hill, and near by a tiny tin-roofed church. Beyond that was 
the European Club, and when one looked at the Club -a dumpy one-storey 
wooden building-one looked at the real centre of the town. In any town in 
India the European Club is the spiritual citadel, the real seat of the British 
power, the Nirvana for which native officials and millionaires pine in vain It 
was doubly so in this case, for it was the proud boast of Kyauktada Club that, 
almost alone of Clubs in Burma, it had never admitted an Oriental to 
membership. Beyond the Club, the Irrawaddy flowed huge and ochreous 
glittering like diamonds in the patches that caught the sun; and beyond the 
river stretched great wastes of paddy fields, ending at the horizon in a range of 
blackish hills. 

The native town, and the courts and the jail, were over to the right, mostly 
hidden in green groves of peepul trees. The spire of the pagoda rose from the 
trees like a slender spear tipped with gold. Kyauktada was a fairly typical 
Upper Burma town, that had not changed greatly between the days of Marco 
Polo and 1910, and might have slept in the Middle Ages for a century more if it 
had not proved a convenient spot for a railway terminus. In 1910 the 
Government made it the headquarters of a district and a seat of 
Progress-interpretable as a block of law courts, with their army of fat but 
ravenous pleaders, a hospital, a school and one of those huge, durable jails 
which the English have built everywhere between Gibraltar and Hong Kong, 
The population was about four thousand, including a couple of hundred 
Indians, a few score Chinese and seven Europeans. There were also two 
Eurasians named Mr Francis and Mr Samuel, the sons of an American Baptist 
missionary and a Roman Catholic missionary respectively. The town 
contained no curiosities of any kind, except an Indian fakir who had lived for 
twenty years in a tree near the bazaar, drawing his food up in a basket every 
morning. 

Flory yawned as he came out of the gate. He had been half drunk the night 
before, and the glare made him feel liverish. ‘Bloody, bloody hole!’ he 
thought, looking down the hill. And, no one except the dog being near, he 
began to sing aloud, ‘Bloody, bloody, bloody, oh, how thou art bloody’ to the 
tune of ‘Holy, holy, holy, oh how Thou art holy ’ as he walked down the hot 
red road, swishing at the dried-up grasses with his stick. It was nearly nine 
o’clock and the sun was fiercer every minute. The heat throbbed down on 
one’s head with a steady, rhythmic thumping, like blows from an enormous 
bolster. Flory stopped at the Club gate, wondering whether to go in or to go 
farther down the road and see Dr Veraswami. Then he remembered that it was 
‘English mail day’ and the newspapers would have arrived. He went in, past 
the big tennis screen, which was overgrown by a creeper with starlike mauve 
flowers. 

In the borders beside the path swaths of English ftowers-phlox and 
larkspur, hollyhock and petunia-not yet slain by the sun, rioted in vast size 
and richness. The petunias were huge, like trees almost. There was no lawn. 



82 Burmese Days 

but instead a shrubbery of native trees and bushes-gold mohur trees like vast 
umbrellas of blood-red bloom, frangipanis with creamy, stalkless flowers, 
purple bougainvillea, scarlet hibiscus and the pink Chinese rose, bilious-green 
crotons, feathery fronds of tamarind. The clash of colours hurt one’s eyes in 
the glare. A nearly naked mali, watering-can in hand, was moving in the jungle 
of flowers like some large nectar- sucking bird. 

On the Club steps a sandy-haired Englishman, with a prickly moustache, 
pale grey eyes too far apart, and abnormally thin calves to his legs, was 
standing with his hands in the pockets of his shorts. This was Mr Westfield, 
the District Superintendent of Police. With a very bored air he was rocking 
himself backwards and forwards on his heels and pouting his upper lip so that 
his moustache tickled his nose. He greeted Flory with a slight sideways 
movement of his head. His way of speaking was clipped and soldierly, missing 
out every word that well could be missed out. Nearly everything he said was 
intended for a joke, but the tone of his voice was hollow and melancholy. 

c Hullo, Flory me lad. Bloody awful morning, what?’ 

‘We must expect it at this time of year, I suppose,’ Flory said. He had turned 
himself a little sideways, so that his birthmarked cheek was away from 
Westfield. 

‘Yes, dammit. Couple of months of this coming. Last year we didn’t have a 
spot of rain till June. Look at that bloody sky, not a cloud in it. Like one of 
those damned great blue enamel saucepans. God! What’d you give to be in 
Piccadilly now, eh?’ 

‘Have the English papers come?’ 

‘Yes. Dear old Punch, Pink’un and Vie Parisienne. Makes you homesick to 
read ’em, what? Let’s come in and have a drink before the ice all goes. Old 
Lackersteen’s been fairly bathing in it. Half pickled already.’ 

They went in, Westfield remarking in his gloomy voice, ‘Lead on, Macduff.’ 
Inside, the Club was a teak-walled place smelling of earth-oil, and consisting 
of only four rooms, one of which contained a forlorn ‘library’ of five hundred 
mildewed novels, and another an old and mangy billiard-table- this, however, 
seldom used, for during most of the year hordes of flying beetles came buzzing 
round the lamps and littered themselves over the cloth. There were also a card- 
room and a ‘lounge’ which looked towards the river, over a wide veranda; but 
at this time of day all the verandas were curtained with green bamboo chicks. 
The lounge was an unhomelike room, with coco-nut matting on the floor, and 
wicker chairs and tables which were littered with shiny illustrated papers. For 
ornament there were a number of ‘Bonza’ pictures, and the dusty skulls of 
sambhur. A punkah, lazily flapping, shook dust into the tepid air. 

There were three men in the room. Under the punkah a florid, fine-looking, 
slightly bloated man of forty was sprawling across the table with his head in his 
hands, groaning in pain. This was Mr Lackersteen, the local manager of a 
timber firm. He had been badly drunk the night before, and he was suffering 
for it, Ellis, local manager of yet another company, was standing before the 
notice-board studying some notice with a look of bitter concentration. He was 
a tiny wiry-haired fellow with a pale, sharp-featured face and restless 



Burmese Days 8 3 

movements. Maxwell, the acting Divisional Forest Officer, was lying in one of 
the long chairs reading the Field, and invisible except for two large-boned legs 
and thick downy forearms. 

‘Look at this naughty old man, 5 said Westfield, taking Mr Lackersteen half 
affectionately by the shoulders and shaking him. ‘Example to the young, what? 
There but for the grace of God and all that. Gives you an idea what you’ll be 
like at forty.’ 

Mr Lackersteen gave a groan which sounded like ‘brandy’. 

‘Poor old chap,’ said Westfield, ‘regular martyr to booze, eh? Look at it 
oozing out of his pores. Reminds me of the old colonel who used to sleep 
without a mosquito net. They asked his servant why and the servant said: “At 
night, master too drunk to notice mosquitoes; in the morning, mosquitoes too 
drunk to notice master.” Look at him-boozed last night and then asking for 
more. Got a little niece coming to stay with him, too. Due tonight, isn’t she, 
Lackersteen?’ 

‘Oh, leave that drunken sot alone,’ said Ellis without turning round. He had 
a spiteful Cockney voice. Mr Lackersteen groaned again, ‘ — the niece! Get 
me some brandy, for Christ’s sake.’ 

‘Good education for the niece, ehP Seeing uncle under the table seven times 
a week. Hey, butler! Bringing brandy for Lackersteen master!’ 

The butler, a dark, stout Dravidian with liquid, yellow-irised eyes like those 
of a dog, brought the brandy on a brass tray. Flory and Westfield ordered gin. 
Mr Lackersteen swallowed a few spoonfuls of brandy and sat back in his chair, 
groaning in a more resigned way. He had a beefy, ingenuous face, with a 
toothbrush moustache. He was really a very simple-minded man, with no 
ambitions beyond having what he called ‘a good time’. His wife governed him 
by the only possible method, namely, by never letting him out of her sight for 
more than an hour or two. Only once, a year after they were married, she had 
left him for a fortnight, and had returned unexpectedly a day before her time, 
to find Mr Lackersteen, drunk, supported on either side by a naked Burmese 
girl, while a third up-ended a whisky bottle into his mouth. Since then she 
had watched him, as he used to complain, ‘like a cat over a bloody mousehole’. 
However, he managed to enjoy quite a number of ‘good times’, though they 
were usually rather hurried ones. 

‘My Christ, what a head I’ve got on me this morning,’ he said. ‘Call that 
butler again, Westfield, I’ve got to have another brahdy before my missus gets 
here. She says she’s going to cut my booze down to four pegs a day when our 
niece gets here. God rot them both!’ he added gloomily. 

‘Stop playing the fool, all of you, and listen to this,’ said Ellis sourly. He had 
a queer wounding way of speaking, hardly eyer opening his mouth without 
insulting somebody. He deliberately exaggerated his Cockney accent, because 
of the sardonic tone it gave to his words. ‘Have you seen this notice of old 
Macgregor’s? A little nosegay for everyone. Maxwell, wake up and listen!’ 

Maxwell lowered the Field. He was a fresh-coloured blond youth of not 
more than twenty-five or six-very young for the post he held. With his heavy 
limbs and thick white eyelashes he reminded one of a cart-horse colt, Elhs 



84 Burmese Days 

nipped the notice from the board with a neat, spiteful little movement and 
began reading it aloud. It had been posted by Mr Macgregor, who, besides 
being Deputy Commissioner, was secretary of the Club. 

‘Just listen to this. “It has been suggested that as there are as yet no Oriental 
members of this club, and as it is now usual to admit officials of gazetted rank, 
whether native or European, to membership of most European Clubs, we 
should consider the question of following this practice in Kyauktada. The 
matter will be open for discussion at the next general meeting. On the one hand 
it may be pointed out”-oh, well, no need to wade through the rest of it. He 
can’t even write a notice without an attack of literary diarrhoea. Anyway, the 
point’s this. He’s asking us to break all our rules and take a dear little nigger- 
boy into this Club. Dear Dr Veraswami, for instance. Dr Very-slimy, 1 call 
him. That would be a treat, wouldn’t it? Little pot-bellied niggers breathing 
garlic in your face over the bridge-table. Christ, to think of it! We’ve got to 
hang together and put our foot down on this at once. What do you say, 
Westfield? Flory?’ 

Westfield shrugged his thin shoulders philosophically. He had sat down at 
the table and lighted a black, stinking Burma cheroot. 

‘Got to put up with it, I suppose,’ he said. ‘B — s of natives are getting into all 
the Clubs nowadays. Even the Pegu Club, I’m told. Way this country’s going, 
you know We’re about the last Club in Burma to hold out against ’em.’ 

‘We are; and what’s more, we’re damn well going to go on holding out. I’ll 
die in the ditch before I’ll see a nigger in here.’ Ellis had produced a stump of 
pencil. With the curious air of spite that some men can put into their tiniest 
action, he re-pinned the notice on the board and pencilled a tiny, neat ‘B F.’ 
against Mr Macgregor’s signature- ‘There, that’s what I think of his idea. I’ll 
tell him so when he comes down. What do you say, Flory?’ 

Flory had not spoken all this time. Though by nature anything but a silent 
man, he seldom found much to say in Club conversations. He had sat down at 
the table and was reading G. K. Chesterton’s article in the London News, at the 
same time caressing Flo’s head with his left hand. Ellis, however, was one of 
those people who constantly nag others to echo their own opinions. He 
repeated his question, and Flory looked up, and their eyes met. The skin round 
Ellis’s nose suddenly turned so pale that it was almost grey. In him it was a sign 
of anger. Without any prelude he burst into a stream of abuse that would have 
been startling, if the others had not been used to hearing something like it 
every morning. 

‘My God, I should have thought in a case like this, when it’s a question of 
keeping those black, stinking swine out of the only place where we can enjoy 
ourselves, you’d have the decency to back me up. Even if that pot-bellied 
greasy little sod of a nigger doctor is your best pal. I don’t care if you choose to 
pal up with the scum of the bazaar. If it pleases you to go to Veraswami’s house 
and drink whisky with all his nigger pals, that’s your look-out. Do what you 
like outside the Club. But, by God, it’s a different matter when you talk of 
bringing niggers in here. I suppose you’d like little Veraswami for a Club 
member, eh? Chipping into our conversation and pawing everyone with 



Burmese Days 8 5 

his sweaty hands and breathing his filthy garlic breath in our faces. By god, 
he’d go out with my boot behind him if ever I saw his black snout inside that 
door. Greasy, pot-bellied little-!’ etc 

This went on for several minutes. It was curiously impressive, because it 
was so completely sincere. Ellis really did hate Orientals-hated them with 
a bitter, restless loathing as of something evil or unclean. Living and working, 
as the assistant of a timber firm must, in perpetual contact with the Burmese, 
he had never grown used to the sight of a black face. Any hint of friendly 
feeling towards an Oriental seemed to him a horrible perversity. He was an 
intelligent man and an able servant of his firm, but he was one of those 
Englishmen-common, unfortunately- who should never be allowed to set foot 
in the East. 

Flory sat nursing Flo’s head in his lap, unable to meet Ellis’s eyes. At the 
best of times his birthmark made it difficult for him to look people straight in 
the face. And when he made ready to speak, he could feel his voice 
trembling-for it had a way of trembling when it should have been firm; his 
features, too, sometimes twitched uncontrollably, 

‘Steady on,’ he said at last, sullenly and rather feebly. ‘Steady on. There’s no 
need to get so excited. I never suggested having any native members in here.’ 
‘Oh, didn’t you? We all know bloody well you’d like to, though. Why else do 
you go to that oily little babu’s house every morning, then? Sitting down at 
table with him as though he was a white man, and drinking out of glasses his 
filthy black lips have slobbered over-it makes me spew to think of it.’ 

‘Sit down, old chap, sit down,’ Westfield said. ‘Forget it. Have a drink on it. 
Not worth while quarrelling. Too hot.’ 

‘My God,’ said Ellis a little more calmly, taking a pace or two up and down, 
‘my God, I don’t understand you chaps. I simply don’t. Here’s that old fool 
Macgregor wanting to bring a nigger into this Club for no reason whatever, 
and you all sit down under it without a word. Good God, what are we supposed 
to be doing in this country? If we aren’t going to rule, why the devil don’t we 
clear out? Here we are, supposed to be governing a set of damn black swine 
who’ve been slaves since the beginning of history, and instead of ruling them 
in the only way they understand, we go and treat them as equals. And you silly 
b — s take it for granted. There’s Flory, makes his best pal a black babu who 
calls himself a doctor because he’s done two years at an Indian so-called 
university. And you, Westfield, proud as Punch of your knock-kneed, bribe- 
taking cowards of policemen. And there’s Maxwell, spends his time running 
after Eurasian tarts. Yes, you do, Maxwell; I heard about your goings-on in 
Mandalay with some smelly little bitch called Molly Pereira. I suppose you’d 
have gone and married her if they hadn’t transferred you up here? You all seem 
to like the dirty black brutes. Christ, I don’t know what’s come over us all. I 
really don’t.’ 

‘Come on, have another drink,’ said Westfield. ‘Hey, butler! Spot of beer 
before the ice goes, eh? Beer, butler!’ 

The butler brought some bottles of Munich beer. Ellis presently sat down at 
the table with the others, and ha nursed one of the cool bottles between his 



86 Burmese Days 

small hands. His forehead was sweating. He was sulky, but not in a rage any 
longer. At all times he was spiteful and perverse, but his violent fits of rage 
were soon over, and were never apologized for. Quarrels were a regular part of 
the routine of Club life. Mr Lackersteen was feeling better and was studying 
the illustrations in La Vie Parisienne. It was after nine now, and the room, 
scented with the acrid smoke of Westfield’s cheroot, was stifling hot. 
Everyone’s shirt stuck to his back with the first sweat of the day. The invisible 
chokra who pulled the punkah rope outside was falling asleep in the glare. 

‘Butler!’ yelled Ellis, and as the butler appeared, ‘go and wake that bloody 
chokra up!’ 

‘Yes, master.’ 

‘And butler!’ 

‘Yes, master?’ 

‘How much ice have we got left?’ 

‘’Bout twenty pounds, master. Will only last today, I think. I find it very 
difficult to keep ice cool now.’ 

‘Don’t talk like that, damn you-“I find it very difficult!” Have you 
swallowed a dictionary? “Please, master, can’t keeping ice cool”— that’s how 
you ought to talk. We shall have to sack this fellow if he gets to talk English too 
well. I can’t stick servants who talk English. D’you hear, butler?’ 

‘Yes, master,’ said the butler, and retired. 

‘God! No ice till Monday,’ Westfield said. ‘You going back to the jungle, 
Flory?’ 

‘Yes. I ought to be there now. I only came in because of the English mail.’ 

‘Go on tour myself, I think. Knock up a spot of Travelling Allowance. I 
cafi’t stick my bloody office at this time of year. Sitting there under the damned 
punkah, signing one chit after another. Paper-chewing. God, how I wish the 
war was on again!’ 

‘I’m going out the day after tomorrow,’ Ellis said. ‘Isn’t that damned padre 
coming to hold his service this Sunday? I’ll take care not to be in for that, 
anyway. Bloody knee-drill.’ 

‘Next Sunday,’ said Westfield. ‘Promised to be in for it myself. So’s 
Macgregor. Bit hard on the poor devil of a padre, I must say. Only gets here 
once in six weeks. Might as well get up a congregation when he does come.’ 

‘Oh, hell! I’d snivel psalms to oblige the padre, but I' can’t stick the way 
these damned native Christians come shoving into our church. A pack of 
Madrassi servants and Karen school-teachers. And then those two yellow- 
bellies, Francis and Samuel-* they call themselves Christians too. Last time the 
padre was here they had the nerve to come up and sit on the front pews with the 
white men. Someone ought to speak to the padre about that. What bloody fools 
we were ever to let those missionaries loose in this country! Teaching bazaar 
sweepers they’re as good as we are. “Please, sir, me Christian same like 
master.” Damned cheek.’ 

‘How about that for a pair of legs?’ said Mr Lackersteen, passing La Vie 
Parisienne across. ‘You know French, Flory; what’s that mean underneath? 
Christ, it reminds me of when I was in Paris, my first leave, before I married. 



Burmese Days 87 

Christ, I wish I was there again' ’ 

‘Did you hear that one about “There was a young lady of Woking”?’ 
Maxwell said. He was rather a silent youth, but, like other youths, he had an 
affection for a good smutty rhyme. He completed the biography of the young 
lady of Woking, and there was a laugh. Westfield replied with the young lady 
of Ealing who had a peculiar feeling, and Flory came in with the young curate 
of Horsham who always took every precaution. There was more laughter. 
Even Ellis thawed and produced several rhymes, Ellis’s jokes were always 
genuinely witty, and yet filthy beyond measure. Everyone cheered up and felt 
more friendly in spite of the heat. They had finished the beer and were just 
going to call for another drink, when shoes creaked on the steps outside. A 
booming voice, which made the floorboards tingle, was saying jocosely: 

‘Yes, most distinctly humorous. I incorporated it in one of those little 
articles of mine in Blackwood's, you know. I remember, too, when I was 
stationed at Prome, another quite-ah-divertmg incident which-’ 

Evidently Mr Macgregor had arrived at the Club. Mr Lackersteen 
exclaimed, ‘Hell! My wife’s there,’ and pushed his empty glass as far away 
from him as it would go. Mr Macgregor and Mrs Lackersteen entered the 
lounge together. 

Mr Macgregor was a large, heavy man, rather past forty, with a kindly, 
puggy face, wearing gold-rimmed spectacles. His bulky shoulders, and a trick 
he had of thrusting his head forward, reminded one curiously of a turtle-the 
Burmans, in fact, nicknamed him ‘the tortoise’. He was dressed in a clean silk 
suit, which already showed patches of sweat beneath the armpits. He greeted 
the others with a humorous mock-salute, and then planted himself before the 
notice-board, beaming, in the attitude of a schoolmaster twiddling a cane 
behind his back. The good nature in his face was quite genuine, and yet there 
was such a wilful geniality about him, such a strenuous air of being off duty 
and forgetting his official rank, that no one was ever quite at ease in his 
presence. His conversation was evidently modelled on that of some facetious 
schoomaster or clergyman whom he had known in early life. Any long word, 
any quotation, any proverbial expression figured in his mind as a joke, and was 
introduced with a bumbling noise like ‘er’ or ‘ah’, to make it clear that there 
was a joke coming. Mrs Lackersteen was a woman of about thirty-five, 
handsome in a contourless, elongated way, like a fashion plate. She had a 
sighing, discontented voice. The others had all stood up when she entered, and 
Mrs Lackersteen sank exhaustedly into the best chair under the punkah, 
fanning herself with a slender hand like that of a newt. 

‘Oh dear, this heat, this heatl Mr Macgregor came and fetched me in his car. 
So kind of him. Tom, that wretch- of a rickshaw-man is pretending to be ill 
again. Really, I think you ought to give him a good thrashing and bring him to 
his senses. It’s too terrible to have to walk about in this sun every day.’ 

Mrs Lackersteen, unequal to the quarter-mile walk between her house and 
the Club; had imported a rickshaw from Rangoon. Except for bullock-carts 
and Mr Macgregor’s carat was the only wheeled vehicle in Kyauktada, for the 
whole district did not possess ten miles of road. In the jungle, rathe® than leave 



88 Burmese Days 

her husband alone, Mrs Lackersteen endured all the horrors of dripping tents, 
mosquitoes and tinned food; but she made up for it by complaining over trifles 
while in headquarters. 

‘Really I think the laziness of these servants is getting too shocking,’ she 
sighed. ‘Don’t you agree, Mr Macgregor? We seem to have no authority over 
the natives nowadays, with all these dreadful Reforms, and the insolence they 
learn from the newspapers. In some ways they are getting almost as bad as the 
lower classes at home.’ 

‘Oh, hardly as bad as that, I trust. Still, I am afraid there is no doubt that the 
democratic spirit is creeping in, even here.’ 

‘And such a short time ago, even just before the war, they were so nice and 
respectful! The way they salaamed when you passed them on the road-it was 
really quite charming. I remember when we paid our butler only twelve rupees 
a month, and really that man loved us like a dog. And now they are demanding 
forty and fifty rupees, and I find that the only way I can even keep a servant is to 
pay their wages several months in arrears.’ 

‘The old type of servant is disappearing,’ agreed Mr Macgregor. ‘In my 
young days, when one’s butler was disrespectful, one sent him along to the jail 
with a chit saying “Please give the bearer fifteen lashes”. Ah well, eheufugacesl 
Those days are gone for ever, I am afraid.’ 

‘Ah, you’re about right there,’ said Westfield in his gloomy way. ‘This 
country’ll never be fit to live in again. British Raj is finished if you ask me. Lost 
Dominion and all that. Time we cleared out of it.’ 

Whereat there was a murmur of agreement from everyone in the room, even 
from Flory, notoriously a Bolshie in his opinions, even from young Maxwell, 
who had been barely three years in the country. No Anglo-Indian will ever 
deny that India is going to the dogs, or ever has denied it-for India, like Punch, 
never was what it was. 

Ellis had meanwhile unpinned the offending notice from behind Mr 
Macgregor’ s back, and he now held it out to him, saying in his sour way: 
‘Here, Macgregor, we’ve read this notice, and we all think this idea of 
electing a native to the Club is absolute-’ Ellis was going to have said ‘absolute 
balls’, but he remembered Mrs Lackersteen’s presence and checked him- 
self- ‘is absolutely uncalled for. After all, this Club is a place where we come to 
enjoy ourselves, and we don’t want natives poking about in here. We like to 
think there’s still one place where we’re free of them. The others all agree with 
me absolutely.’ 

He looked round at the others. ‘Hear, hear!’ said Mr Lackersteen gruffly. He 
knew that his wife would guess that he had been drinking, and he felt that a 
display of sound sentiment would excuse him. 

Mr Macgregor took the notice with a smile. He saw the ‘B.F.’ pencilled 
against his name, and privately he thought Ellis’s manner very disrespectful, 
but he turned the matter off with a joke. He took as great pains to be a good 
fellow at the Club as he did to keep up his dignity during office hours. ‘I 
gather,’ he said, ‘that our friend Ellis does not wetteome the society of- ah- his 
Aryan brother?’ . * . 



Burmese Days 89 

‘No, I do not,’ said Ellis tartly. ‘Nor my Mongolian brother. I don’t like 
niggers, to put it in one word.’ 

Mr Macgregor stiffened at the word ‘nigger’, which is discountenanced in 
India. He had no prejudice against Orientals; indeed, he was deeply fond of 
them. Provided they were given no freedom he thought them the most 
charming people alive. It always pained him to see them wantonly insulted. 

‘Is it quite playing the game,’ he said stiffly, ‘to call these people niggers-a 
term they very naturally resent-when they are obviously nothing of the kind? 
The Burmese are Mongolians, the Indians are Aryans or Dravidians, and all of 
them are quite distinct-’ 

‘Oh, rot that!’ said Ellis, who was not at all awed by Mr Macgregor ’s official 
status. ‘Call them niggers or Aryans or what you like. What I’m saying is that 
we don’t want to see any black hides in this Club. If you put it to the vote you’ll 
find we’re against it to a man-unless Flory wants his dear pal Veraswami,’ he 
added. 

‘Hear, hear!’ repeated Mr Lackersteen. ‘Count on me to blackball the lot of 
’em.’ 

Mr Macgregor pursed his lips whimsically. He was in an awkward position, 
for the idea of electing a native member was not his own, but had been passed 
on to him by the Commissioner. However, he disliked making excuses, so he 
said in a more conciliatory tone: 

‘Shall we postpone discussing it till the next general meeting? In the 
meantime we can give it our mature consideration. And now,’ he added, 
moving towards the table, ‘who will join me in a little- ah- liquid 
refreshment?’ 

The butler was called and the ‘liquid refreshment’ ordered. It was hotter 
than ever now, and everyone was thirsty. Mr Lackersteen was on the point of 
ordering a drink when he caught his wife’s eye, shrank up and said sulkily 
‘No.’ He sat with his hands on his knees, with a rather pathetic expression, 
watching Mrs Lackersteen swallow a glass of lemonade with gin in it. Mr 
Macgregor, though he signed the chit for drinks, drank plain lemonade. Alone 
of the Europeans in Kyauktada, he kept the rule of not drinking before sunset. 

‘It’s all very well,’ grumbled Ellis, with his forearms on the table, fidgeting 
with his glass. The dispute with Mr Macgregor had made him restless again. 
‘It’s all very well, but I stick to what I said. No natives in this Club! It’s by 
constantly giving way over small things like that that we’ve ruined the Empire. 
The country’s only rotten with sedition because we’ve been too soft with them. 
The only possible policy is to treat ’em like the dirt they are. This is a critical 
moment, and we want every bit of prestige we can get. We’ve got to hang 
together and say, “We are the masters,' and you "beggars-” ’ Ellis pressed his 
small thumb down as though flattening a grub-* “you beggars keep your 
place!” ’ - ■ : 

‘Hopeless, did chap,’ said Westfield. ‘Quite hopeless. What can you do with 
all this red tape tying your hands?. Beggars of natives know the law better than 
we do. Insult you to your face and then run you in the moment yon Mt.’aaou 
Can’t do anyihing.usfess you put yew foot down firmly. And how can you, if 



po Burmese Days 

they haven’t the guts to show fight?’ 

‘Our burra sahib at Mandalay always said,’ put in Mrs Lackersteen, ‘that in 
the end we shall simply leave India. Young men will not come out here any 
longer to work all their lives for insults and ingratitude. We shall just^o. When 
the natives come to us begging us to stay, we shall say, “No, you have had your 
chance, you wouldn’t take it. Very well, we shall leave you to govern 
yourselves.” And then, what a lesson that will teach them!’ 

‘It’s all this law and order that’s done for us,’ said Westfield gloomily. The 
ruin of the Indian Empire through too much legality was a recurrent theme 
with Westfield. According to him, nothing save a full-sized rebellion, and the 
consequent reign of martial law, could save the Empire from decay. ‘All this 
paper-chewing and chit-passing. Office babus are the real rulers of this 
country now. Our number’s up. Best thing we can do is to shut up shop and let 
’em stew in their own ’juice.’ 

‘I don’t agree, I simply don’t agree,’ Ellis said. ‘We could put things right in 
a month if we chose. It only needs a pennyworth of pluck. Look at Amritsar. 
Look how they caved in after that. Dyer knew the stuff to give them. Poor old 
Dyer! That was a dirty job. Those cowards in England have got something to 
answer for.’ 

There was a.kind of sigh from the others, the same sigh that a gathering of 
Roman Catholics will give at the mention of Bloody Mary. Even Mr 
Macgregor, who detested bloodshed and martial law, shook his head at the 
name of Dyer. 

‘Ah, poor man! Sacrificed to the Paget M.P.s. Well, perhaps they will 
discover their mistake when it is too late.’ 

‘My old governor used to tell a story about that,’ said Westfield. ‘There was 
an old havildar in a native regiment-someone asked him what’d happen if the 
British left India. The old chap said-’ 

Flory pushed back his chair and stood up. It must not, it could not-no, it 
simply should not go on any longer! He must get out of this room quickly, 
before something happened inside his head and he began to smash the 
furniture and throw bottles at the pictures. Dull boozing witless porkers! Was 
it possible that they could go on week after week, year after year, repeating 
word for word the same evil-minded drivel, like a parody of a fifth-rate story in 
Blackwood's ? Would none of them ever think of anything new to say? Oh, what 
a place, what people! What a civilization is this of ours-this godless civilization 
founded on whisky, Blackwood's and the ‘Bonzo’ pictures! God have mercy on 
us, for all of us are part of it. 

Flory did not say any of this, and he was at some pains not to show it in his 
face. He was standing by his chair, a little sidelong to the others, with the half- 
smile of a man who is never sure of his popularity. 

‘I’m. afraid I shall have to be off,’ he said. ‘I’ve got some things to see to 
before breakfast, unfortunately.’ 

‘Stay and have another spot, old man,’ said Westfield. ‘Morning’s young. 
Have a gin. Give you an appetite.’ 

‘No, thanks, I must be going. Come on, Flo, Good-bye, Mrs Lackersteen. 



Burmese Days 


9i 


Good-bye, everybody.’ 

‘Exit Booker Washington, the niggers’ pal,’ said Ellis as Flory disappeared. 
Ellis could always be counted on to say something disagreeable about anyone 
who had just left the room. ‘Gone to see Very-slimy, I suppose. Or else sloped 
off to avoid paying a round of drinks.’ 

‘Oh, he’s not a bad chap,’ Westfield said. ‘Says some Bolshie things 
sometimes. Don’t suppose he means half of them.’ 

‘Oh, a very good fellow, of course,’ said Mr Macgregor. Every European in 
India is ex-officio, or rather ex-colore, a good fellow, until he has done 
something quite outrageous. It is an honorary rank. 

‘He’s a bit too Bolshie for my taste. I can’t bear a fellow who pals up with the 
natives. I shouldn’t wonder if he’s got a lick of the tar-brush himself. It might 
explain that black mark on his face. Piebald. And he looks like a yellow-belly, 
with that black hair, and skin the colour of a lemon.’ 

There was some desultory scandal about Flory, but not much, because Mr 
Macgregor did not like scandal. The Europeans stayed in the Club long 
enough for one more round of drinks. Mr Macgregor told his anecdote about 
Prome, which could be produced in almost any context. And then the 
conversation veered back to the old, never-palling subject-the insolence of the 
natives, the supineness of the Government, the dear dead days when the 
British Raj was the British Raj and please give the bearer fifteen lashes. This 
topic was never let alone for long, partly because of Ellis’s obsession. Besides, 
you could forgive the Europeans a great deal of their bitterness. Living and 
working among Orientals would try the temper of a saint. And all of them, the 
officials particularly, knew what it was to be baited and insulted. Almost every 
day, when Westfield or Mr Macgregor or even Maxwell went down the street, 
the High School boys, with their young, yellow faces-faces smooth as gold 
coins, full of that maddening contempt that sits so naturally on the Mongolian 
face-sneered at them as they went past, sometimes hooted after them with 
hyena-like laughter. The life of the Anglo-Indian officials is not all jam. In 
comfortless camps, in sweltering offices, in gloomy dakbungalows smelling of 
dust and earth-oil, they earn, perhaps, the right to be a little disagreeable. 

It was getting on for ten now, and hot beyond bearing. Flat, clear drops of 
sweat gathered on everyone’s face, and on the men’s bare forearms. A damp 
patch was growing larger and larger in the back of Mr Macgregor’s silk coat. 
The glare outside seemed to soak somehow through the green-chicked 
windows, making one’s eyes ache and filling one’s head with stuffiness. 
Everyone thought with malaise of his stodgy breakfast, and of the long, deadly 
hours that were coming. Mr Macgregor stood up with a sigh and adjusted his 
spectacles, which had slipped down his sweating nose. 

‘Alas that such a festive gathering should end,’ he said. ‘I must get home to 
breakfast. The cares of Empire. Is anybody coming my way? My mm is 
waiting with the car.’ 

‘Oh, thank you,’ said Mrs Lackersteen; ‘if you’d take Tom and me. What a 
relief not 00 have to walk in this head’ 

Thee*hm stood Westfisldi^^ his 


9 2 Burmese Days 

nose, ‘Better get a move on, I suppose Go to sleep if I sit here any longer. 
Think of stewing in that office all day! Baskets of papers. Oh Lord!’ 

‘Don’t forget tennis this evening, everyone,’ said Ellis. ‘Maxwell, you lazy 
devil, don’t you skulk out of it again. Down here with your racquet at four- 
thirty sharp.’ 

‘Apris vous 3 madame,’ said Mr Macgregor gallantly, at the door. 

‘Lead on, Macduff,’ said Westfield. 

They went out into the glaring white sunlight. The heat rolled from the 
earth like the breath of an oven. The flowers, oppressive to the eyes, blazed 
with not a petal stirring, in a debauch of sun. The glare sent a weariness 
through one’s bones. There was something horrible in it-horrible to think of 
that blue, blinding sky, stretching on and on over Burma and India, over Siam, 
Cambodia, China, cloudless and interminable. The plates of Mr Macgregor’s 
waiting car were too hot to touch. The evil time of day was beginning, the time, 
as the Burmese say, ‘when feet are silent’. Hardly a living creature stirred, 
except men, and the black columns of ants, stimulated by the heat, which 
marched ribbon-like across the path, and the tail-less vultures which soared on 
the currents of the air. 


3 


Flory turned to the left outside the Club gate and started down the bazaar 
road, under the shade of the peepul trees. A hundred yards away there was a 
swirl of music, where a squad of Military Policemen, lank Indians in greenish 
khaki, were marching back to their lines with a Gurkha boy playing the 
bagpipes ahead of them. Flory was going to see Dr Veraswami. The doctor’s 
house was a long bungalow of earth-oiled wood, standing on piles, with a large 
unkempt garden which adjoined that of the Club. The back of the house was 
towards the road, for it faced the hospital, which lay between it and the river. 

As Flory entered the compound there was a frightened squawk of women 
and a scurrying within the house. Evidently he had narrowly missed seeing the 
doctor’s wife. He went round to the front of the house and called up to the 
veranda: 

‘Doctor! Are you busy? May I come up?’ 

The doctor, a little black and white figure, popped from within the house 
like a jack-in-the-box. He hurried to the veranda rail, exclaimed effusively: 

‘If you may come up! Of course, of course, come up this instant! Ah, Mr 
Flory, how very delightful to see you! Come up, come up. What drink will you 
have? I have whisky, beer, vermouth and other European liquors. Ah, my dear 
friend, how I have been pining for some cultured conversation!’ 

The doctor was a small, black, plump man with fuzzy hair and round, 
credulous eyes. He wore steel-rimmed spectacles, and he was dressed in a 



Burmese Days 93 

badly fitting white drill suit, with trousers bagging concertina-like over clumsy 
black boots. His voice was eager and bubbling, with a hissing of the s’s. As 
Flory came up the steps the doctor popped back to the end of the veranda and 
rummaged in a big tin ice-chest, rapidly pulling out bottles of all descriptions. 
The veranda was wide and dark, with low eaves from which baskets of fern 
hung, making it seem like a cave behind a waterfall of sunlight. It was 
furnished with long, cane-bottomed chairs made in the jail, and at one end 
there was a book-case containing a rather unappetizing little library, mainly 
books of essays, of the Emerson-Carlyle-Stevenson type. The doctor, a great 
reader, liked his books to have what he called a ‘moral meaning’. 

‘Well, doctor,’ said Flory-the doctor had meanwhile thrust him into a long 
chair, pulled out the leg-rests so that he could lie down, and put cigarettes and 
beer within reach. ‘Well, doctor, and how are things? How’s the British 
Empire? Sick of the palsy as usual?’ 

‘Aha, Mr Flory, she iss very low, very low! Grave complications setting in. 
Septicaemia, peritonitis and paralysis of the ganglia. We shall have to call in 
the specialists, I fear. Aha!’ 

It was a joke between the two men to pretend that the British Empire was an 
aged female patient of the doctor’s. The doctor had enjoyed this joke for two 
years without growing tired of it. 

‘Ah, doctor,’ said Flory, supine in the long chair, ‘what a joy to be here after 
that bloody Club. When I come to your house I feel like a Nonconformist 
minister dodging up to town and going home with a tart. Such a glorious 
holiday from them 3 — he motioned with one heel in the direction of the 
Club-‘from my beloved fellow Empire-builders. British prestige, the white 
man’s burden, the pukka sahib sans peur et sans reproche - you know. Such a 
relief to be out of the stink of it for a little while.’ 

‘My friend, my friend, now come, come, please! That iss outrageous. You 
must not say such things of honourable English gentlemen!’ 

'You don’t have to listen to the honourable gentlemen talking, doctor. I 
stood it as long as I could this morning. Ellis with his “dirty nigger”, Westfield 
with his jokes, Macgregor with his Latin tags and please give the bearer fifteen 
lashes. But when they got on to that story about the old havildar-you know, 
the dear old havildar who said that if the British left India there wouldn’t be a 
rupee or a virgin between-you know; well, I couldn’t stand it any longer. It’s 
time that old havildar was put on the retired list. He’s been saying the same 
thing ever since the Jubilee in ’eighty-seven.’ 

The doctor grew agitated, as he always did when Flory criticized the Club 
members. He was standing with his plump white-clad behind balanced against 
the veranda rail, and sometimes gesticulating. When searching for a word he 
would nip his black thumb and forefinger together, as though to capture an 
idea floating in the air. 

‘But truly, truly, Mr Flory, you must not speak sot Why iss it that always 
you are abusing the pukka sahibs, ass you call them? They are the salt of the 
earth. Consider the great things they have done-consider the great 
administrators who have made British India what it iss. Consider dive, 



94 Burmese Days 

Warren Hastings, Dalhousie, Curzon. They were such men-I quote your 
immortal Shakespeare-ass, take them for all in all, we shall not look upon their 
like again!’ 

‘Well, do you want to look upon their like again? I don’t. 5 

‘And consider how noble a type iss the English gentleman! Their glorious 
loyalty to one another' The public school spirit! Even those of them whose 
manner iss unfortunate-some Englishmen are arrogant, I concede-have the 
great, sterling qualities that we Orientals lack. Beneath their rough exterior, 
their hearts are of gold.’ 

‘Of gilt, shall we say? There’s a kind of spurious good-fellowship between 
the English and this country. It’s a tradition to booze together and swap meals 
and pretend to be friends, though we all hate each other like poison. Hanging 
together, we call it. It’s a political necessity. Of course drink is what keeps the 
machine going. We should all go mad and kill one another in a week if it 
weren’t for that. There’s a subject for one of your uplift essayists, doctor. 
Booze as the cement of empire.’ 

The doctor shook his head. ‘Really, Mr Flory, I know not what it iss that 
hass made you so cynical. It iss so most unsuitable! You-an English gentleman 
of high gifts and character-to be uttering seditious opinions that are worthy of 
the Burmese PatriotV 

‘Seditious?’ Flory said. l Fm not seditious. I don’t want the Burmans to drive 
us out of this country. God forbid! I’m here to make money, like everyone else. 
All I object to is the slimy white man’s burden humbug. The pukka sahib pose. 
It’s so boring. Even those bloody fools at the Club might be better company if 
we weren’t all of us living a lie the whole time.’ 

‘But, my dear friend, what lie are you living?’ 

‘Why, of course, the lie that we’re here to uplift our poor black brothers 
instead of to rob them. I suppose it’s a natural enough lie. But it corrupts us, it 
corrupts us in ways you can’t imagine. There’s an everlasting sense of being a 
sneak and a liar that torments us and drives us to justify ourselves night and 
day. It’s at the bottom of half our beastliness to the natives. We Anglo-Indians 
could be almost bearable if we’d only admit that we’re thieves and go on 
thieving without any humbug.’ 

The doctor, very pleased, nipped his thumb and forefinger together. ‘The 
weakness of your argument, my dear friend,’ he said, beaming at his own 
irony, ‘the weakness appears to be, that you are not thieves.’ 

‘Now, my dear doctor-’ 

Flory sat up in the long chair, partly because his prickly heat had just 
stabbed him in the back like a thousand needles, partly because his favourite 
argument with the doctor was about to begin. This argument, vaguely political 
in nature, took place as often as the two men met. It was a topsy-turvy affair, 
for the Englishman was bitterly anti-English and the Indian fanatically loyal. 
Dr Veraswami had a passionate admiration for the English, which a thousand 
snubs from Englishmen had not shaken. He would maintain with positive 
eagerness that he, as an Indian, belonged to an inferior and degenerate race. 
His faith in British justice was so great that even when, at the jail, he had to 



Burmese Days pj 

superintend a flogging or a hanging, and would come home with his black face 
faded grey and dose himself with whisky, his zeal did not falter. Flory’s 
seditious opinions shocked him, but they also gave him a certain shuddering 
pleasure, such as a pious believer will take in hearing the Lord’s Prayer 
repeated backwards. 

‘My dear doctor,’ said Flory, ‘how can you make out that we are in this 
country for any purpose except to steal? It’s so simple. The official holds the 
Burman down while the businessman goes through his pockets. Do you 
suppose my firm, for instance, could get its timber contracts if the country 
weren’t in the hands of the British? Or the other timber firms, or the oil 
companies, or the miners and planters and traders? How could the Rice Ring 
go on skinning the unfortunate peasant if it hadn’t the Government behind it? 
The British Empire is simply a device for giving trade monopolies to the 
English-or rather to gangs of Jews and Scotchmen.’ 

‘My friend, it iss pathetic to me to hear you talk so. It iss truly pathetic. You 
say you are here to trade? Of course you are. Could the Burmese trade for 
themselves? Can they make machinery, ships, railways, roads? They are 
helpless without you. What would happen to the Burmese forests if the 
English were not here? They would be sold immediately to the Japanese, who 
would gut them and ruin them. Instead of which, in your hands, actually they 
are improved. And while your businessmen develop the resources of our 
country, your officials are civilizing us, elevating us to their level, from pure 
public spirit. It is a magnificent record of self-sacrifice.’ 

‘Bosh, my dear doctor. We teach the young men to drink whisky and play 
football, I admit, but precious little else. Look at our schools-factories for 
cheap clerks. We’ve never taught a single useful manual trade to the Indians. 
We daren’t; frightened of the competition in industry. We’ve even crushed 
various industries. Where are the Indian muslins now? Back in the forties or 
thereabouts they were building sea-going ships in India, and manning them as 
well. Now you couldn’t build a seaworthy fishing boat there. In the eighteenth 
century the Indians cast guns that were at any rate up to the European 
standard. Now, after we’ve been in India a hundred and fifty years, you can’t 
make so much as a brass cartridge-case in the whole continent. The only 
Eastern races that have developed at all quickly are the independent ones, I 
won’t instance Japan, but take the case of Siam-’ 

The doctor waved his hand excitedly. He always interrupted the argument 
at this point (for as a rule it followed the same course, almost word for word), 
finding that the case of Siam hampered him. 

‘My friend, my friend, you are forgetting the Oriental character. How iss it 
possible to have developed us, with our apathy and superstition? At least you 
have brought to us law and order. The unswerving British Justice and the Pax 
Britannica.’ 

‘Pox Britannica, doctor. Pox Britannica is its proper name. And in any case, 
whom is it pax for? The money-lender and the lawyer. Of course we keep the 
peace in India, in our own interest, but what does all this law and order 
business boil down to? More banks and more prisons- that’s all it means.’ 



9 6 Burmese Days 

‘What monstrous misrepresentations!’ cried the doctor. ‘Are not prissons 
necessary? And have you brought us nothing but prissons? Consider Burma in 
the days of Thibaw, with dirt and torture and ignorance, and then look around 
you. Look merely out of this veranda-look at that hospital, and over to the 
right at that school and that police station. Look at the whole uprush of 
modern progress!’ 

‘Of course I don’t deny,’ Flory said, ‘that we modernize this country in 
certain ways. We can’t help doing so. In fact, before we’ve finished we’ll have 
wrecked the whole Burmese national culture. But we’re not civilizing them, 
we’re only rubbing our dirt on to them. Where’s it going to lead, this uprush of 
modern progress, as you call it? Just to our own dear old swinery of 
gramophones and billycock hats. Sometimes I think that in two hundred years 
all this-’ he waved a foot towards the horizon-‘all this will be gone-forests, 
villages, monasteries, pagodas all vanished. And instead, pink villas fifty yards 
apart; all over those hills, as far as you can see, villa after villa, with all the 
gramophones playing the same tune. And all the forests shaved flat-cliewed 
into wood-pulp for the News of the World , or sawn up into gramophone cases. 
But the trees avenge themselves, as the old chap says in The Wild Duck . You’ve 
read Ibsen, of course?’ 

‘Ah, no, Mr Flory, alas! That mighty master-mind, your inspired Bernard 
Shaw hass called him. It iss a pleasure to come. But, my friend, what you do 
not see iss that your civilization at its very worst iss for us an advance. 
Gramophones, billycock hats, the News of the World-zW iss better than the 
horrible sloth of the Oriental. I see the British, even the least inspired of them, 
ass-ass-’ the doctor searched for a phrase, and found one that probably came 
from Stevenson— ‘ass torchbearers upon the path of progress.’ 

‘I don’t. I see them as a kind of up-to-date, hygienic, self-satisfied louse. 
Creeping round the world building prisons. They build a prison and call it 
progress,’ he added rather regretfully -for the doctor would not recognize the 
allusion. 

‘My friend, positively you are harping upon the subject of prissons! 
Consider that there are also other achievements of your countrymen. They 
construct roads, they irrigate deserts, they conquer famines, they build 
schools, they set up hospitals, they combat plague, cholera, leprosy, smallpox, 
venereal disease-’ 

‘Having brought it themselves,’ put in Flory. 

‘No, sir!’ returned the doctor, eager to claim this distinction for his own 
countrymen. ‘No, sir, it wass the Indians who introduced venereal disease into 
this country. The Indians introduce diseases, and the English cure them. 
There iss the answer to all your pessimism and seditiousness.’ 

‘Well, doctor, we shall never agree. The fact is that you like all this modern 
progress business, whereas I’d rather see things a little bit septic. Burma in the 
days of Thibaw would have suited me better, I think. And as I said before, if 
we are a civilizing influence, it’s only to grab on a larger scale. We should chuck 
it quickly enough if it didn’t pay.’ 

‘My friend, you do not think that. If truly you disapprove of the British 



Burmese Days 97 ^ 

Empire, you would not be talking of it privately here. You would be 
proclaiming from the house-tops. I know your character, Mr Flory, better 
than you know it yourself.’ 

‘Sorry, doctor; I don’t go in for proclaiming from the housetops. I haven’t 
the guts. I “counsel ignoble ease”, like old Belial in Paradise Lost. It’s safer. 
You’ve got to be a pukka sahib or die, in this country. In fifteen years I’ve 
never talked honestly to anyone except you. My talks here are a safety-valve; a 
little Black Mass on the sly, if you understand me.’ 

At this moment there was a desolate wailing noise outside. Old Mattu„the 
Hindu durwan who looked after the European church, was standing in the 
sunlight below the veranda. He was an old fever-stricken creature; more like a 
grasshopper than a human being, and dressed in a few square inches of dingy 
rag. He lived near the church in a hut made of flattened kerosene tins, from 
which he would sometimes hurry forth set the appearance of a European, to 
salaam deeply and wail something about his ‘talab’, which was eighteen rupees 
a month. Looking piteously up at the veranda, he massaged the earth-coloured 
skin of his belly with one hand, and with the other made the motion of putting 
food into his mouth. The doctor felt in his pocket and dropped a four-anna 
piece over the veranda rail. He was notorious for his soft-heartedness, and all 
the beggars in Kyauktada made him their target. 

‘Behold there the degeneracy of the East,’ said the doctor, pointing to 
Mattu, who was doubling himself up like a caterpillar and uttering grateful 
whines. ‘Look at the wretchedness of hiss limbs. The calves of hiss legs are not 
so thick 1 ass an Englishman’s wrists. Look at hiss abjectness and servility. Look 
at hiss ignorance- such ignorance ass iss not known in Europe outside a home 
for mental defectives. Once I asked Mattu to tell me hiss age. “Sahib,” he said, 
“I believe that I am ten years old.” How can you pretend, Mr Flory, that you 
are not the natural superior of such creatures?’ 

‘Poor old Mattu, the uprush of modern progress seems to have missed him 
somehow,’ Flory said, throwing another four-anna piece over the rail. ‘Go on, 
Mattu, spend that on booze. Be as degenerate as you can. It all postpones 
Utopia.’ 

‘Aha, Mr Flory, sometimes I think that all you say iss but to-what iss the 
expression?-pull my leg. The English sense of humour. We Orientals have no 
humour, ass iss well known.’ 

‘Lucky devils. It’s been the ruin of us, our bloody sense of humour.’ He 
yawned with his hands behind his head. Mattu had shambled away after 
further grateful noises. ‘I suppose I ought to be going before this cursed sun 
gets too high. The heat’s going to be devilish this year, I feel it in my bones. 
Well, doctor, we’ve been arguing so much that I haven’t asked for your news. I 
only got in from the jungle yesterday. I ought to go back the day after 
tomorrow-don’t know whether I shall. Has anything been happening in 
Kyauktada? Any scandals?’ 

The doctor looked suddenly serious. He had taken off his spectacles, and his 
face, with dark liquid eyes, recalled that of a black retriever dog. He looked 
away, and spoke in a slightly more hesitant tone than before. 



p8 Burmese Days 

‘That fact iss, my friend, there iss a most unpleasant business afoot. You will 
perhaps laugh-it sounds nothing-but I am in serious trouble. Or rather, I am 
in danger of trouble. It iss an underground business. You Europeans will 
never hear of it directly. In this place’-he waved a hand towards the 
bazaar-‘there iss perpetual conspiracies and plottings of which you do not 
hear. But to us they mean much.’ 

‘What’s been happening, then?’ 

‘It iss this. An intrigue iss brewing against me. A most serious intrigue 
which iss intended to blacken my character and ruin my official career. Ass an 
Englishman you will not understand these things. I have incurred the enmity 
of a man you probably do not know, U Po Kyin, the Sub-divisional 
Magistrate. He iss a most dangerous man. The damage that he can do to me iss 
incalculable.’ 

‘U Po Kyin? Which one is that?’ 

‘The great fat man with many teeth. Hiss house iss down the road there, a 
hundred yards away.’ 

‘Oh, that fat scoundrel? I know him well.’ 

‘No, no, my friend, no, no!’ exclaimed the doctor quite eagerly; ‘it cannot be 
that you know him. Only an Oriental could know him. You, an English 
gentleman, cannot sink your mind to the depth of such ass U Po Kyin. He iss 
more than a scoundrel, he iss-what shall I say? Words fail me. He recalls to me 
a crocodile in human shape. He hass the cunning of the crocodile, its cruelty, 
its bestiality. If you knew the record of that man! The outrages he hass 
committed! The extortions, the briberies! The girls he hass ruined, raping 
them before the very eyes of their mothers! Ah, an English gentleman cannot 
imagine such a character. And thiss iss the man who hass taken hiss oath to 
ruin me.’ 

‘I’ve heard a good deal about U Po Kyin from various sources,’ Flory said, 
‘He seems a fair sample of a Burmese magistrate. A Burman told me that 
during the war U Po Kyin was at work recruiting, and he raised a battalion 
from his own illegitimate sons. Is that true?’ 

‘It could hardly be so,’ said the doctor, ‘for they would not have been old 
enough. But of hiss villainy there iss no doubt. And now he iss determined 
upon ruining me. In the first place he hates me because I know too much about 
him; and besides, he iss the enemy of any reasonably honest man. He will 
proceed-such iss the practice of such men— by calumny. He will spread reports 
about me-reports of the most appalling and untrue descriptions. Already he 
iss beginning them.’ 

‘But would anyone believe a fellow like that against you? He’s only a low- 
down magistrate. You’re a high official.’ 

‘Ah, Mr Flory, you do not understand Oriental cunning. U Po Kyin hass 
mined higher officials than I. He will know ways to make himself believed. 
And therefore-ah, it iss a difficult business!’ 

The doctor took a step or two up and down the veranda, polishing his glasses 
with his handkerchief. It was clear that there was something more which 
delicacy prevented him from saying. For a moment his manner was so troubled 



Burmese Days 99 

that Flory would have liked to ask whether he could not help in some way., but 
he did not, for he knew the uselessness of interfering in Oriental quarrels. No 
European ever gets to the bottom of these quarrels; there is always something 
impervious to the European mind, a conspiracy behind the conspiracy, a plot 
within the plot. Besides, to keep out of ‘native 5 quarrels is one of the Ten 
Precepts of the pukka sahib. He said doubtfully: 

‘What is a difficult business? 5 

‘It iss, if only-ah, my friend, you will laugh at me, I fear. But it iss this: if 
only I were a member of your European Club! If only! How different would 
my position be! 5 

‘The Club? Why? How would that help you? 5 

‘My friend, in these matters prestige iss everything. It iss not that U Po 
Kyin will attack me openly; he would never dare; it iss that he will libel me and 
backbite me. And whether he iss believed or not depends entirely upon my 
standing with the Europeans. It iss so that things happen in India. If our 
prestige iss good, we rise; if bad, we fall. A nod and a wink will accomplish 
more than a thousand official reports. And you do not know what prestige it 
gives to an Indian to be a member of the European Club. In the Club, 
practically he iss a European. No calumny can touch him. A Club member iss 
sacrosanct. 5 

Flory looked away over the veranda rail. He had got up as though to go. It 
always made him ashamed and uncomfortable when it had to be admitted 
between them that the doctor, because of his black skin, could not be received 
in the Club. It is a disagreeable thing when one’s close friend is not one’s social 
equal; but it is a thing native to the very air of India. 

‘They might elect you at the next general meeting, 5 he said. ‘I don’t say they 
will, but it’s not impossible. 5 

‘I trust, Mr Flory, that you do not think I am asking you to propose me for 
the Club? Heaven forbid! I know that that iss impossible for you. Simply I 
wass remarking that if I were a member of the Club, I should be forthwith 
invulnerable- 5 

Flory cocked his Terai hat loosely on his head and stirred Flo up with his 
stick. She was asleep under the chair. Flory felt very uncomfortable. He knew 
that in all probability, if he had the courage to face a few rows with Ellis, he 
could secure Dr Veras wami’s election to the Club. And the doctor, after all, 
was his friend, indeed, almost the sole friend he had in Burma. They had 
talked and argued together a hundred times, the doctor had dined at his house, 
he had even proposed to introduce Flory to his wife-but she, a pious Hindu, 
had refused with horror. They had made shooting trips together-the doctor, 
equipped with bandoliers and hunting knives, panting up hillsides slippery 
with bamboo leaves and blazing his gun at nothing. In common decency it was 
his duty to support the doctor. But he knew also that the doctor would never ask 
for any support, aid that there would be an ugly row before an Oriental was got 
into the Qub. No, he could not face that row! It was not worth it. He said: 

‘To .tell you the truth, there’s been talk about this already. They were 
discussing it this morning, and that little beast Ellis was peaching Ids usual 


ioo Burmese Days 

“dirty nigger” sermon. Macgregor has suggested electing one native member. 
He’s had orders to do so, I imagine.’ 

‘Yes, I heard that. We hear all these things. It wass that that put the idea into 
my head.’ 

‘It’s to come up at the general meeting in June. I don’t know what’ll 
happen-it depends on Macgregor, I think. I’ll give you my vote, but I can’t do 
more than that. I’m sorry, but I simply can’t. You don’t know the row there’ll 
be. Very likely they will elect you, but they’ll do it as an unpleasant duty, under 
protest. They’ve made a perfect fetish of keeping this Club all-white, as they 
call it.’ 

‘Of course, of course, my friend! I understand perfectly. Heaven forbid that 
you should get into trouble with your European friends on my behalf. Please, 
please, never to embroil yourself! The mere fact that you are known to be my 
friend benefits me more than you can imagine. Prestige, Mr Flory, iss like a 
barometer. Every time you are seen to enter my house the mercury rises half a 
degree.’ 

‘Well, we must try and keep it at “Set Fair”. That’s about all I can do for 
you, I’m afraid.’ 

‘Even that iss much, my friend. And for that, there iss another thing of 
which I would warn you, though you will laugh, I fear. It iss that you yourself 
should beware of U Po Kyin. Beware of the crocodile! For sure he will strike at 
you when he knows that you are befriending me.’ 

‘All right, doctor, I’ll beware of the crocodile. I don’t fancy he can do me 
much harm, though.’ 

‘At least he will try. I know him. It will be hiss policy to detach my friends 
from me. Possibly he would even dare to spread hiss libels about you also.’ 
‘About me? Good gracious, no one would believe anything against me. Civis 
Romanus sum. I’m an Englishman-quite above suspicion.’ 

‘Nevertheless, beware of hiss calumnies, my friend. Do not underrate him. 
He will know how to strike at you. He iss a crocodile. And like the crocodile’- 
the doctor nipped his thumb and finger impressively; his images became 
mixed sometimes —‘like the crocodile, he strikes always at the weakest spot!’ 
‘Do crocodiles always strike at the weakest spot, doctor?’ 

Both men laughed. They were intimate enough to laugh over the doctor’s 
queer English occasionally. Perhaps, at the bottom of his heart, the doctor was 
a little disappointed that Flory had not promised to propose him for the Club, 
but he would have perished rather than say so. And Flory was glad to drop the 
subject, an uncomfortable one which he wished had never been raised. 

‘Well, I really must be going, doctor. Good-bye in case I don’t see you again. 
I hope it’ll be all right at the general meeting. Macgregor’ s not a bad old stick. I 
dare say he’ll insist on their electing you.’ 

‘Let us hope so, my friend. With that l can defy a hundred U Po Kyins. A 
thousand! Good-bye, my friend, good-bye.’ 

Then Flory settled his Terai hat on his head and went home across the 
glaring maidan, to his breakfast, for which the long morning of drinking, 
smoking and talking had left him no appetite. 



4 


Flory lay asleep, naked except for black Shan trousers, upon his sweat-damp 
bed. He had been idling all day. He spent approximately three weeks of every 
month in camp, coming into Kyauktada for a few days at a time, chiefly in 
order to idle, for he had very little clerical work to do. 

The bedroom was a large square room with white plaster walls, open 
dooTways and no ceiling, but only rafters in which sparrows nested. There was 
no furniture except the big four-poster bed, with its furled mosquito net like a 
canopy, and a wicker table and chair and a small mirror; also some rough book- 
shelves, containing several hundred books, all mildewed by many rainy 
seasons and riddled by silver fish. A tuktoo clung to the wall, flat and 
motionless like a heraldic dragon. Beyond the veranda eaves the light rained 
down like glistening white oil. Some doves in a bamboo thicket kept up a dull 
droning noise, curiously appropriate to the heat-a sleepy sound, but with the 
sleepiness of chloroform rather than a lullaby. 

Down at Mr Macgregor’s bungalow, two hundred yards away, a durwan, 
like a living clock, hammered four strokes on a section of iron rail. Ko S’la, 
Flory’s servant, awakened by the sound, went into the cookhouse, blew up the 
embers of the woodfire and boiled the kettle for tea. Then he put on his pink 
gaungbaung and muslin ingyi and brought the tea-tray to his master’s bedside. 

Ko S’la (his real name was Maung San Hla; Ko S’la was an abbreviation) 
was a short, square- shouldered, rustic-looking Burman with a very dark skin 
and a harassed expression. He wore a black moustache which curved 
downwards round his mouth, but like most Burmans he was quite beardless. 
He had been Flory’s servant since his first day in Burma. The two men were 
within a month of one another’s age. They had been boys together, had 
tramped side by side after snipe and duck, sat together in machans waiting for 
tigers that never came, shared the discomforts of a thousand camps and 
marches; and Ko S’la had pimped for Flory and borrowed money for him from 
the Chinese money-lenders, carried him to bed when he was drunk, tended 
him through bouts of fever. In Ko S’la’s eyes Flory, because a bachelor, was a 
boy still; whereas Ko S’la had married, begotten five children, married again 
and become one of the -obscure martyrs of bigamy. Like all bachelors’ servants, 
Ko S’la was lazy and dirty > and yet he was devoted to Flory. He would never let 
anyone else serve Flory at table, or carry his gun or hold his pony’s head while 
he mounted. Chi the march, if they came to a stream, he would carry Flory 
across on his back. He was inclined to pity Flory, partly because he thought 



102 Burmese Days 

him childish and easily deceived, and partly because of the birthmark, which 
he considered a dreadful thing. 

Ko S’la put the tea-tray down on the table very quietly, and then went round 
to the end of the bed and tickled Flory’s toes. He knew by experience that this 
was the only way of waking Flory without putting him in a bad temper. Flory 
rolled over, swore, and pressed his forehead into the pillow. 

‘Four o’clock has struck, most holy god,’ Ko S’la said. ‘I have brought two 
teacups, because the woman said that she was coming.’ 

The woman was Ma Hla May, Flory’s mistress. Ko S’la always called her the 
woman , to show his disapproval-not that he disapproved of Flory for keeping a 
mistress, but he was jealous of Ma Hla May’s influence in the house. 

‘Will the holy one play tinms this evening?’ Ko S’la asked. 

‘No, it’s too hot,’ said Flory in English. ‘I don’t want anything to eat. Take 
this muck away and bring some whisky.’ 

Ko S’la understood English very well, though he could not speak it. He 
brought a bottle of whisky, and also Flory’s tennis racquet, which he laid in a 
meaning manner against the wall opposite the bed. Tennis, according to his 
notions, was a mysterious ritual incumbent on all Englishmen, and he did not 
like to see his master idling in the evenings. 

Flory pushed away in disgust the toast and butter that Ko S’la had brought, 
but he mixed some whisky in a cup of tea and felt better after drinking it. He 
had slept since noon, and his head and all his bones ached, and there was a taste 
like burnt paper in his mouth. It was years since he had enjoyed a meal. All 
European food in Burma is more or less disgusting-the bread is spongy stuff 
leavened with palm-toddy and tasting like a penny bun gone wrong, the butter 
comes out of a tin, and so does the milk, unless it is the grey watery catlap of the 
dudh-wallah. As Ko S’la left the room there was a scraping of sandals outside, 
and a Burmese girl’s high-pitched voice said, ‘Is my master awake?’ 

‘Come in,’ said Flory rather bad temperedly. 

Ma Hla May came in, kicking off red-lacquered sandals in the doorway. She 
was allowed to come to tea, as a special privilege, but not to other meals, nor to 
wear her sandals in her master’s presence. 

Ma Hla May was a woman of twenty-two or -three, and perhaps five feet tall. 
She was dressed in a longyi of pale blue embroidered Chinese satin, and a 
starched white muslin ingyi on which several gold lockets hung. Her hair was 
coiled in a tight black cylinder like ebony, and decorated with jasmine flowers. 
Her tiny, straight, slender body was a contourless as a bas-relief carved upon a 
tree. She was like a doll, with her oval, still face the colour of new copper, and 
her narrow eyes; an outlandish doll and yet a grotesquely beautiful one. A 
scent of sandalwood and coco-nut oil came into the room with her. 

Ma Hla May came across to the bed, sat down on the edge and put her arms 
rather abruptly round Flory. She smelled at his cheek with her flat nose, in the 
Burmese fashion. 

‘Why did my master not send for me this afternoon?’ she said. 

‘I was sleeping. It is too hot for that kind of thing.’ 

‘So you would rather sleep alone than with Ma Hla May? How ugly you 



Burmese Days •- 103 

must think me, then! Am I ugly, master?’ 

‘Go away,’ he said, pushing her back. ‘I don’t want you at this time of day. 5 

‘At least touch me with your lips, then. (There is no Burmese word for to 
kiss.) All white men do that to their women.’ 

‘There you are, then. Now leave me alone. Fetch some cigarettes and give 
me one.’ 

‘Why is it that nowadays you never want to make love to me? Ah, two years 
ago it was so different! You loved me in those days. You gave me presents of 
gold bangles and silk longyis from Mandalay. And now look’-Ma Hla May 
held out one tiny muslin-clad arm-‘not a single bangle. Last month I had 
thirty, and now all of them are pawned. How can I go to the bazaar without my 
bangles, and wearing the same longyi over and over again? I am ashamed 
before the other women.’ 

‘Is it my fault if you pawn your bangles?’ 

‘Two years ago you would have redeemed them for me. Ah, you do not love 
Ma Hla May any longer! 5 

She put her arms round him again and kissed him, a European habit which 
he had taught her. A mingled scent of sandalwood, garlic, coco-nut oil and the 
jasmine in her hair floated from her. It was a scent that always made his teeth 
tingle. Rather abstractedly he pressed her head back upon the pillow and 
looked down at her queer, youthful face, with its high cheekbones, stretched 
eyelids and short, shapely lips. She had rather nice teeth, like the teeth of a 
kitten. He had bought her from her parents two years ago, for three hundred 
rupees. He began to stroke her brown throat, rising like a smooth, slender stalk 
from the collarless ingyi. 

‘You only like me because I am a white man and have money,’ he said. 

‘Master, I love you, I love you more than anything in the world. Why do you 
say that? Have I not always been faithful to you?’ 

‘You have a Burmese lover.' 

‘Ugh! 5 Ma Hla May affected to shudder at the thought. ‘To think of their 
horrible brown hands, touching me! I should die if a Burman touched me! 5 

‘Liar.’ 

He put his hand on her breast. Privately, Ma Hla May did not like this, for it 
reminded her that her breasts existed-the ideal of a Burmese woman being to 
have no breasts. She lay and let him do as he wished with her, quite passive yet 
pleased and faintly smiling, like a cat which allows one to stroke it. Flory’s 
embraces meant nothing to her (Ba Pe, Ko S’la’s younger brother, was secretly 
her lover), yet she was bitterly hurt when he neglected them. Sometimes she 
had even put love-philtres in his food. It was the idle concubine’s life that she 
loved, and the visits to her village dressed in all her finery, when she could 
boast of her position as a ‘bo-kadaw’-a white man’s wife; for she had 
persuaded everyone, herself included, that she was Flory’s legal wife. 

When Fiory had done with her he turned away, jaded and ashamed, and lay 
silent with his left hand covering his birthmark. He always remembered the 
birthmark when he had done something to be ashamed of. He buried his face 
(hsgustedly in the pillow, which was damp and smelt of coco-nut oil. It was 



104 Burmese Days 

horribly hot, and the doves outside were still droning. Ma Hla May, naked, 
reclined beside Flory, fanning him gently with a wicker fan she had taken from 
the table. 

Presently she got up and dressed herself, and lighted a cigarette. Then, 
coming back to the bed, she sat down and began stroking Flory’ s bare 
shoulder. The whiteness of his skin had a fascination for her, because of its 
strangeness and the sense of power it gave her. But Flory twitched his shoulder 
to shake her hand away. At these times she was nauseating and dreadful to him. 
His sole wish was to get her out of his sight. 

‘Get out,’ he said. 

Ma Hla May took her cigarette from her mouth and tried to offer it to Flory. 
‘Why is master always so angry with me when he has made love to me?’ she 
said. 

‘Get out,’ he repeated 

Ma Hla May continued to stroke Flory’s shoulder. She had never learned 
the wisdom of leaving him alone at these times. She believed that lechery was a 
form of witchcraft, giving a woman magical powers over a man, until in the end 
she could weaken him to a half-idiotic slave. Each successive embrace sapped 
Flory’s will and made the spell stronger-this was her belief. She began 
tormenting him to begin over again. She laid down her cigarette and put her 
arms round him, trying to turn him towards her and kiss his averted face, 
reproaching him for his coldness. 

‘Go away, go away!’ he said angrily. ‘Look in the pocket of my shorts. There 
is money there. Take five rupees and go.’ 

Ma Hla May found the five-rupee note and stuffed it into the bosom of her 
ingyi, but she still would not go. She hovered about the bed, worrying Flory 
until at last he grew angry and jumped up. 

‘Get out of this room! I told you to go. I don’t want you in here after I’ve 
done with you.’ 

‘That is a nice way to speak to me! You treat me as though I were a 
prostitute.’ 

‘So you are. Out you go,’ he said, pushing her out of the room by her 
shoulders. He kicked her sandals after her. Their encounters often ended in 
this way. 

Flory stood in the middle of the room, yawning. Should he go down to the 
Club for tennis after all? No, it meant shaving, and he could not face the effort 
of shaving until he had a few drinks inside him. He felt his scrubby chin and 
lounged across to the mirror to examine it, but then turned away. He did not 
want to see the yellow, sunken face that would look back at him. For several 
minutes he stood slack-limbed, watching the tuktoo stalk a moth above the 
bookshelves. The cigarette that Ma Hla May had dropped burned down with 
an acrid smell, browning the paper. Flory took a book from the shelves, opened 
it and then threw it away in distaste. He had not even the energy to read. Oh 
God, God, what to do with the rest erf - this bloody evening? 

Flo waddled into the room, wagging hex tail and asking to be taken for a 
walk. Flory went sulkily into the little stone-floored bathroom that gave on to 



Burmese Days 10$ 

the bedroom, splashed himself with lukewarm water and put on his shirt and 
shorts. He must take some kind of exercise before the sun went down. In India 
it is in some way evil to spend a day without being once in a muck-sweat. It 
gives one a deeper sense of sin than a thousand lecheries. In the dark evening, 
after a quite idle day, one’s ennui reaches a pitch that is frantic, suicidal. Work, 
prayer, books, drinking, talking-they are all powerless against it; it can only be 
sweated out through the pores of the skin. 

Flory went out and followed the road uphill into the jungle. It was scrub 
jungle at first, with dense stunted bushes, and the only trees were half-wild 
mangoes, bearing little turpentiny fruits the size of plums. Then the road 
struck among taller trees. The jungle was dried-up and lifeless at this time of 
year. The trees lined the road in close, dusty ranks, with leaves a dull olive- 
green. No birds were visible except some ragged brown creatures like 
disreputable thrushes, which hopped clumsily under the bushes; in the 
distance some other bird uttered a cry of ‘Ah ha ha! Ah ha ha! ’-a lonely, hollow 
sound like the echo of a laugh. There was a poisonous, ivy-like smell of 
crushed leaves. It was still hot, though the sun was losing its glare and the 
slanting light was yellow. 

After two miles the road ended at the ford of a shallow stream. The jungle 
grew greener here, because of the water, and the trees were taller. At the edge 
of the stream there was a huge dead pyinkado tree festooned with spidery 
orchids, and there were some wild lime bushes with white waxen flowers. 
They had a sharp scent like bergamot. Flory had walked fast and the sweat had 
drenched his shirt and dribbled, stinging, into his eyes. He had sweated 
himself into a better mood. Also, the sight of this stream always heartened him; 
its water was quite clear, rarest of sights in a miry country. He crossed the 
stream by the stepping stones, Flo splashing after him, and turned into a 
narrow track he knew, which led through the bushes. It was a track that cattle 
had made, coming to the stream to drink, and few human beings ever followed 
it. It led to a pool fifty yards upstream. Here a peepul tree grew, a great 
buttressed thing six feet thick, woven of innumerable strands of wood, like a 
wooden cable twisted by a giant. The roots of the tree made a natural cavern, 
under which the clear greenish water bubbled. Above and all around dense 
foliage shut out the light, turning the place into a green grotto walled with 
leaves. 

Flory threw off his clothes and stepped into the water. It was a shade cooler 
than the air, and it came up to his neck when he sat down. Shoals of silvery 
mahseer 3 no bigger than sardines, came nosing and nibbling at his body. Flo 
had also flopped into the water, and she swam round silently, otter-like, with 
her webbed feet. She knew the pool well, for they often came here when Flory 
was at Kyauktada. 

There was a stirring high up in the peepul tree, and a bubbling noise like 
pots boiling. A flock of great pigeons were up there, eating the berries. Flory 
gazed up into the great green dome of the tree, trying to distinguish the birds; 
they ware invisible, they matched the leaves so perfectly, and yet the whole 
tree was abvewitb them, shimmering, as though the ghosts of birds were 



106 Burmese Days 

shaking it. Flo rested herself against the roots and growled up at the invisible 
creatures. Then a single green pigeon fluttered down and perched on a lower 
branch. It did not know that it was being watched. It was a tender thing, 
smaller than a tame dove, with jade-green back as smooth as velvet, and neck 
and breast of iridescent colours. Its legs were like the pink wax that dentists 
use. 

The pigeon rocked itself backwards and forwards on the bough, swelling out 
its breast feathers and laying its coralline beak upon them. A pang went 
through Flory. Alone, alone, the bitterness of being alone! So often like this, in 
lonely places in the forest, he would come upon something-bird, flower, 
tree-beautiful beyond all words, if there had been a soul with whom to share 
it. Beauty is meaningless until it is shared. If he had one person, just one, to 
halve his loneliness! Suddenly the pigeon saw the man and dog below, sprang 
into the air and dashed away swift as a bullet, with a rattle of wings. One does 
not often see green pigeons so closely when they are alive. They are high- 
flying birds, living in the treetops, and they do not come to the ground, or only 
to drink. When one shoots them, if they are not killed outright, they cling to 
the branch until they die, and drop long after one has given up waiting and 
gone away. 

Flory got out of the water, put on his clothes and recrossed the stream. He 
did not go home by the road, but followed a foot-track southward into the 
jungle, intending to make a detour and pass through a village that lay in the 
fringe of the jungle not far from his house. Flo frisked in and out of the 
undergrowth, yelping sometimes when her long ears caught in the thorns. She 
had once turned up a hare near here. Flory walked slowly The smoke of his 
pipe floated straight upwards in still plumes. He was happy and at peace after 
the walk and the clear water. It was cooler now, except for patches of heat 
lingering under the thicker trees, and the light was gentle. Bullock-cart wheels 
were screaming peacefully in the distance. 

Soon they had lost their way in the jungle, and were wandering in a maze of 
dead trees and tangled bushes. They came to an impasse where the path was 
blocked by large ugly plants like magnified aspidistras, whose leaves 
terminated in long lashes armed with thorns. A firefly glowed greenish at the 
bottom of a bush; it was getting twilight in the thicker places. Presently the 
bullock-cart wheels screamed nearer, taking a parallel course. 

‘Hey, sayagyi, saya gyiV Flory shouted, taking Flo by the collar to prevent 
her running away. 

l Ba le-de ?* the Burman shouted back. There was the sound of plunging 
hooves and of yells to the bullocks. 

‘Come here, if you please, O venerable and learned sir! We have lost our 
way. Stop a moment, O great builder of pagodas!’ 

The Burman left his cart and pushed through the jungle, slicing the creepers 
with his dah. He was a squat middle-aged man with one eye. He led the way 
back to the track, and Flory climbed on to the flat, uncomfortable bullock cart. 
The Burman took up the string reins, yelled to the bullocks, prodded the roots 
of their tails with his short stick, and the cart jolted on with a shriek of wheels. 



Burmese Days ioj 

The Burmese bullock-cart drivers seldom grease their axles, probably because 
they believe that the screaming keeps away evil spirits, though when 
questioned they will say that it is because they are too poor to buy grease. 

They passed a whitewashed wooden pagoda, no taller than a man and half 
hidden by the tendrils of creeping plants. Then the track wound into the 
village, which consisted of twenty ruinous wooden huts roofed with thatch, 
and a well beneath some barren date-palms. The egrets that roosted in the 
palms were streaming homewards over the treetops like white flights of 
arrows. A fat yellow woman with her longyi hitched under her armpits was 
chasing a dog round a hut, smacking at it with a bamboo and laughing, and the 
dog was also laughing in its fashion. The village was called Nyaunglebin-‘the 
four peepul trees’; there were no peepul trees there now, probably they had 
been cut down and forgotten a century ago. The villagers cultivated a narrow 
strip of fields that lay between the town and the jungle, and they also made 
bullock carts which they sold in Kyauktada. Bullock-cart wheels were littered 
everywhere under the houses; massive things five feet across, with spokes 
roughly but strongly carved. 

Flory got off the cart and gave the driver a present of four annas. Some 
brindled curs hurried from beneath the houses to sniff at Flo, and a flock of 
pot-bellied, naked children, with their hair tied in top-knots, also appeared, 
curious about the white man but keeping their distance. The village headman, 
a wizened, leaf-brown old man, came out of his house, and there were 
shikoings. Flory sat down on the steps of the headman’s house and relighted 
his pipe. He was thirsty. 

‘Is the water in your well good to drink, thugyi-min ?’ 

The headman reflected, scratching the calf of his left leg with his right big 
toenail. ‘Those who drink it, drink it, thakin. And those who do not drink it, do 
not drink it.’ 

‘Ah. That is wisdom.’ 

The fat woman who had chased the pariah brought a blackened earthenware 
teapot and a handleless bowl, and gave Flory some pale green tea, tasting of 
wood-smoke. 

‘I must be going, thugyi-min. Thank you for the tea.’ 

‘God go with you, thakin. ’ 

Flory went home by a path that led out on to the maidan. It was dark now. 
Ko S’la had put on a clean ingyi and was waiting in the bedroom. He had 
heated two kerosene tins of bath-water, lighted the petrol lamps and laid out a 
clean suit and shirt for Flory. The clean clothes were intended as a hint that 
Flory should shave, dress himself and go down to the Club after dinner. 
Occasionally he spent the evening in Shan trousers, loafing in a chair with a 
book, and Ko S’la disapproved of this habit. He hated to see his master 
behaving differently from other white men. The fact that Flory often came 
back from the Chib drunk, whereas he remained sober when he stayed at 
home, did not alter Ko S’la’s opinion, because getting drunk was normal and 
pardonable 'm a white man. 

‘The woman has gone down to the bazaar,’ he announced, pleased, as he 



i o 8 Burmese Days 

always was when Ma Hla May left the house. ‘Ba Pe has gone with a lantern, to 
look after her when she comes back.’ 

‘Good,’ Flory said. 

She had gone to spend her five rupees-gambling, no doubt. 

‘The holy one’s bath-water is ready.’ 

‘Wait, we must attend to the dog first. Bring the comb,’ Flory said. 

The two men squatted on the floor together and combed Flo’s silky coat and 
felt between her toes, picking out the ticks. It had to be done every evening. 
She picked up vast numbers of ticks during the day, horrible grey things that 
were the size of pin-heads when they got on to her, and gorged themselves till 
they were as large as peas. As each tick was detached Ko S’la put it on the floor 
and carefully crushed it with his big toe. 

Then Flory shaved, bathed, dressed, and sat down to dinner. Ko S’la stood 
behind his chair, handing him the dishes and fanning him with the wicker fan. 
He had arranged a bowl of scarlet hibiscus flowers in the middle of the 
little table. The meal was pretentious and filthy. The clever ‘Mug’ cooks, 
descendants of servants trained by Frenchmen in India centuries ago, can do 
anything with food except make it eatable. After dinner Flory walked down to 
the Club, to play bridge and get three parts drunk, as he did most evenings 
when he was in Kyauktada. 


5 


In spite of the whisky he had drunk at the Club, Flory had little sleep that 
night. The pariah curs were baying the moon-it was only a quarter full and 
nearly down by midnight, but the dogs slept all day in the heat, and they had 
begun their moon-choruses already. One dog had taken a dislike to Flory’s 
house, and had settled down to bay at it systematically. Sitting on its bottom 
fifty yards from the gate, it let out sharp, angry yelps, one to half a minute, as 
regularly as a clock. It would keep this up for two or three hours, until the 
cocks began crowing. 

Flory lay turning from side to side, his head aching. Some fool has said that 
one cannot hate an animal; he should try a few nights in India, when the dogs 
are baying the moon. In the end Flory could stand it no longer. He got up, 
rummaged in the tin uniform case under his bed for a rifle and a couple of 
cartridges, and went out on to the veranda. 

It was fairly light in the quarter moon. He could see the dog, and he could 
see his foresight. He rested himself against the wooden pillar of the veranda 
and took aim carefully; then, as he felt the hard vulcanite butt against his bare 
shoulder, he flinched. The rifle had a heavy kick, and it left a bruise when one 
fired it. The soft flesh of his shoulder quailed. He lowered the rifle. He had not 
the nerve to fire it in cold blood. 



Burmese Days log 

It was no use trying to sleep. Flory got his jacket and some cigarettes, and 
began to stroll up and down the garden path, between the ghostly flowers. It 
was hot, and the mosquitoes found him out and came droning after him. 
Phantoms of dogs were chasing one another on the maidan. Over to the left the 
gravestones of the English cemetery glittered whitish, rather sinister, and one 
could see the mounds near by, that were the remains of old Chinese tombs. 
The hillside was said to be haunted, and the Club chokras cried when they were 
sent up the road at night. 

‘Cur, spineless cur,’ Flory was thinking to himself; without heat, however, 
for he was too accustomed to the thought. ‘Sneaking, idling, boozing, 
fornicating, soul-examining, self-pitying cur. All those fools at the Club, those 
dull louts to whom you are so pleased to think yourself superior-they are all 
better than you, every man of them. At least they are men in their oafish way. 
Not cowards, not liars. Not half-dead and rotting. But you-’ 

He had reason to call himself names. There had been a nasty, dirty affair at 
the Club that evening. Something quite ordinary, quite according to 
precedent; but still dingy, cowardly, dishonouring. 

When Flory had arrived at the Club only Ellis and Maxwell were there. The 
Lackersteens had gone to the station with the loan of Mr Macgregor’s car, to 
meet their niece, who was to arrive by the night train. The three men were 
playing three-handed bridge fairly amicably when Westfield came in, his 
sandy face quite pink with rage, bringing a copy of a Burmese paper called the 
Burmese Patriot . There was a libellous article in it, attacking Mr Macgregor. 
The rage of Ellis and Westfield was devilish. They were so angry that Flory 
had the greatest difficulty in pretending to be angry enough to satisfy them. 
Ellis spent five minutes in cursing and then, by some extraordinary process, 
made up his mind that Dr Veraswami was responsible for the article. And he 
had thought of a counterstroke already. They would put a notice on the 
board -a notice answering and contradicting the one Mr Macgregor had 
posted the day before. Ellis wrote it out immediately, in his tiny, clear 
handwriting: 

‘In view of the cowardly insult recently offered to our Deputy 
Commissioner, we the undersigned wish to give it as our opinion that this is 
the worst possible moment to consider the election of niggers to this Club,’ 
etc., etc. 

Westfield demurred to ‘niggers’. It was crossed out by a single thin line and 
‘natives’ substituted. The notice was signed ‘R. Westfield, P.W. Ellis, 
C. W. Maxwell, J. Flory.’ 

Ellis was so pleased with his idea that quite half of his anger evaporated. The 
notice would accomplish nothing in itself, but the news of it would travel 
swiftly round the town, and would reach Dr Veraswami tomorrow. In effect, 
the doctor would have been publicly called a nigger by the European 
community. This delighted Ellis. For the rest of the evening he could hardly 
keep his eyes from the notice-board, and every few minutes he exclaimed in 
glee, ‘That’ll give little fat-belly something to think about, eh? Teach the httie 
sod what we think of him. That’s the way to put ’em in their place, eh T etc. 



i io Burmese Days 

Meanwhile, Flory had signed a public insult to his friend. He had done it for 
the same reason as he had done a thousand such things in his life; because he 
lacked the small spark of courage that was needed to refuse. For, of course, he 
could have refused if he had chosen; and, equally of course, refusal would have 
meant a row with Ellis and Westfield. And oh, how he loathed a row! The 
nagging, the jeers! At the very thought of it he flinched; he could feel his 
birthmark palpable on his cheek, and something happening in his throat that 
made his voice go flat and guilty. Not that! It was easier to insult his friend, 
knowing that his friend must hear of it. 

Flory had been fifteen years in Burma, and in Burma one learns not to set 
oneself up against public opinion. But his trouble was older than that. It had 
begun in his mother’s womb, when chance put the blue birthmark on his 
cheek. He thought of some of the early effects of his birthmark. His first arrival 
at school, aged nine; the stares and, after a few days, shouts of the other boys; 
the nickname Blueface, which lasted until the school poet (now, Flory 
remembered, a critic who wrote rather good articles in the Nation ) came out 
with the couplet: 

New-uck Flory does look rum. 

Got a face like a monkey’s bum, 

whereupon the nickname was changed to Monkey-bum. And the subsequent 
years. On Saturday nights the older boys used to have what they called a 
Spanish Inquisition. The favourite torture was for someone to hold you in a 
very painful grip known only to a few illuminati and called Special Togo, while 
someone else beat you with a conker on a piece of string. But Flory had lived 
down ‘Monkey-bum’ in time. He was a liar, and a good footballer, the two 
things absolutely necessary for success at school. In his last term he and 
another boy held the school poet in Special Togo while the captain of the 
eleven gave him six with a spiked running shoe for being caught writing a 
sonnet. It was a formative period. 

From that school he went to a cheap, third-rate public school. It was a poor, 
spurious place. It aped the great public schools with their traditions of High 
Anglicanism, cricket and Latin verses, and it had a school song called ‘The 
Scrum of Life’ in which God figured as the Great Referee. But it lacked the 
chief virtue of the great public schools, their atmosphere of literary 
scholarship. The boys learned as nearly as possible nothing. There was not 
enough caning to make them swallow the dreary rubbish of the curriculum, 
and the wretched, underpaid masters were not the kind from whom one 
absorbs wisdom unawares. Flory left school a barbarous young lout. And yet 
even then there were, and he knew it, certain possibilities in him; possibilities 
that would lead to trouble as likely as not. But, of course, he had suppressed 
them. A boy does not start his career nicknamed Monkey-bum without 
learning his lesson. 

He was not quite twenty when he came to Burma. His parents, good people 
and devoted to him, had found him a place in a timber firm. They had had 
great difficulty in getting him the job, had {raid a premium they could not 
afford; later, he had rewarded them by answering their letters with careless 



Burmese Days ill 

scrawls at intervals of months. His first six months in Burma he had spent in 
Rangoon, where he was supposed to be learning the office side of his business. 
He had lived in a ‘chummery’ with four other youths who devoted their entire 
energies to debauchery. And what debauchery! They swilled whisky which 
they privately hated, they stood round the piano bawling songs of insane 
filthiness and silliness, they squandered rupees by the hundred on aged Jewish 
whores with the faces of crocodiles. That too had been a formative period. 

From Rangoon he had gone to a camp in the jungle, north of Mandalay, 
extracting teak. The jungle life was not a bad one, m spite of the discomfort, 
the loneliness, and what is almost the worst thing in Burma, the filthy, 
monotonous food. He was very young then, young enough for hero-worship, 
and he had friends among the men in his firm. There were also shooting, 
fishing, and perhaps once in a year a hurried trip to Rangoon-pretext, a visit to 
the dentist. Oh, the joy of those Rangoon tnps! The rush to Smart and 
Mookerdum’s bookshop for the new novels out from England, the dinner at 
Anderson’s with beefsteaks and butter that had travelled eight thousand miles 
on ice, the glorious drinking-bout! He was too young to realize what this life 
was preparing for him. He did not see the years stretching out ahead, lonely, 
eventless, corrupting. 

He acclimatized himself to Burma. His body grew attuned to the strange 
rhythms of the tropical seasons. Every year from February to May the sun 
glared in the sky like an angry god, then suddenly the monsoon blew westward, 
first in sharp squalls, then in a heavy ceaseless downpour that drenched 
everything until neither one’s clothes, one’s bed nor even one’s food ever 
seemed to be dry. It was still hot, with a stuffy, vaporous heat. The lower 
jungle paths turned into morasses, and the paddy-fields were wastes of 
stagnant water with a stale, mousy smell. Books and boots were mildewed. 
Naked Burmans in yard-wide hats of palm-leaf ploughed the paddy-fields, 
driving their buffaloes through knee-deep water. Later, the women and 
children planted the green seedlings of paddy, dabbing each plant into the 
mud with little three-pronged forks. Through July and August there was 
hardly a pause in the rain. Then one night, high overhead, one heard a 
squawking of invisible birds. The snipe were flying southward from Central 
Asia. The rains tailed off, ending in October. The fields dried up, the paddy 
ripened, the Burmese children played hop-scotch with gonyin seeds and flew 
kites in the cool winds. It was the beginning of the short winter, when Upper 
Burma seemed haunted by the ghost of England. Wild flowers sprang into 
bloom everywhere, not quite the same as the English ones, but very like 
them-honeysuckle in thick bushes, field roses smelling of pear-drops, even 
violets in dark places of the forest. The sun circled low in the sky, and the 
nights and early mornings were bitterly cold, with white mists that poured 
through the valleys like the steam of enormous kettles. One went shooting after 
duck and snipe. There were snipe in countless myriads, and wild geese in 
flocks that rose from the jeel with a roar like a goods train crossing an iron 
bridge. The ripening paddy, breast-high and yellow, looked like wheat. The 
Burmans went to their work with muffled heads and their arms clasped across 



1 12 Burmese Days 

their breasts, their faces yellow and pinched with the cold. In the morning one 
marched through misty, incongruous wilderness, clearings of drenched, 
almost English grass and naked trees where monkeys squatted in the upper 
branches, waiting for the sun. At night, coming back to camp through the cold 
lanes, one met herds of buffaloes which the boys were driving home, with their 
huge horns looming through the mist like crescents. One had three blankets on 
one’s bed, and game pies instead of the eternal chicken. After dinner one sat on 
a log by the vast camp-fire, drinking beer and talking about shooting. The 
flames danced like red holly, casting a circle of light at the edge of which 
servants and coolies squatted, too shy to intrude on the white men and yet 
edging up to the fire like dogs. As one lay in bed one could hear the dew 
dripping from the trees like large but gentle rain. It was a good life while one 
was young and need not think about the future or the past. 

Flory was twenty-four, and due for home leave, when the War broke out. He 
had dodged military service, which was easy to do and seemed natural at the 
time. The civilians in Burma had a comforting theory that ‘sticking by one’s 
job’ (wonderful language, English!/ Sticking Zjy’-how different from ‘sticking 
to') was the truest patriotism; there was even a covert hostility towards the men 
who threw up their jobs in order to join the Army. In reality, Flory had dodged 
the War because the East already corrupted him, and he did not want to 
exchange his whisky, his servants and his Burmese girls for the boredom of the 
parade ground and the strain of cruel marches. The War rolled on, like a storm 
beyond the horizon. The hot, blowsy country, remote from danger, had a 
lonely, forgotten feeling. Flory took to reading voraciously, and learned to live 
in books when life was tiresome. He was growing adult, tiring of boyish 
pleasures, learning to think for himself, almost willy-nilly. 

He celebrated his twenty-seventh birthday in hospital, covered from head to 
foot with hideous sores which were called mud-sores, but were probably 
caused by whisky and bad food. They left little pits in his skin which did not 
disappear for two years. Quite suddenly he had begun to look and feel very 
much older. His youth was finished. Eight years of Eastern life, fever, 
loneliness and intermittent drinking, had set their mark on him. 

Since then, each year had been lonelier and more bitter than the last. What 
was at the centre of all his thoughts now, and what poisoned everything, was 
the ever bitterer hatred of the atmosphere of imperialism in which he lived. 
For as his brain developed-you cannot stop your brain developing, and it is 
one of the tragedies of the half-educated that they develop late, when they are 
already committed to some wrong way of life-he had grasped the truth about 
the English and their Empire. The Indian Empire is a despotism-benevolent, 
no doubt, but still a despotism with theft as its final object. And as to the 
English of the East, the sahiblog, Flory had come so to hate them from living in 
their society, that he was quite incapable of being fair to them. For after all, the 
poor devils are no worse than anybody else. They lead unenviable lives; it is a 
poor bargain to spend thirty years, ill-paid, in an alien country, and then come 
home with a wrecked liver and a pine-apple backside from sitting in cane 
chairs, to settle down as the bore of some second-rate Qub. On the other hand. 



Burmese Days 113 

the sahiblog are not to be idealized. There is a prevalent idea that the men at the 
‘outposts of Empire 5 are at least able and hardworking. It is a delusion. Outside 
the scientific services-the Forest Department, the Public Works Department 
and the like-there is no particular need for a British official in India to do his 
job competently. Few of them work as hard or as intelligently as the post- 
master of a provincial town in England. The real work of administration is 
done mainly by native subordinates; and the real backbone of the despotism is 
not the officials but the Army. Given the Army, the officials and the 
businessmen can rub along safely enough even if they are fools. And most of 
them are fools. A dull, decent people, cherishing and fortifying their dullness 
behind a quarter of a million bayonets. 

It is a stifling, stultifying world in which to live. It is a world in which every 
word and every thought is censored. In England it is hard even to imagine such 
an atmosphere. Everyone is free in England; we sell our souls in public and buy 
them back in private, among our friends. But even friendship can hardly exist 
when every white man is a cog in the wheels of despotism. Free speech is 
unthinkable. All other kinds of freedom are permitted. You are free to be a 
drunkard, an idler, a coward, a backbiter, a fornicator; but you are not free to 
think for' yourself. Your opinion on every subject of any conceivable 
importance is dictated for you by the pukka sahibs’ code. 

In the end the secrecy of your revolt poisons you like a secret disease. Your 
whole life is a life of lies. Year after year you sit in Kipling-haunted little 
Clubs, whisky to right of you, Pink’un to left of you, listening and eagerly 
agreeing while Colonel Bodger develops his theory that these bloody 
Nationalists should be boiled in oil. You hear your Oriental friends called 
‘greasy little babus 5 , and you admit, dutifully, that they are greasy little babus. 
You see louts fresh from school kicking grey-haired servants. The time comes 
when you burn with hatred of your own countrymen, when you long for a 
native rising to drown their Empire in blood. And in this there is nothing 
honourable, hardly even any sincerity. For, au fond , what do you care if the 
Indian Empire is a despotism, if Indians are bullied and exploited? You only 
care because the right of free speech is denied you. You are a creature of the 
despotism, a pukka sahib, tied tighter than a monk or a savage by an 
unbreakable system of tabus. 

Time passed and each year Flory found himself less at home in the world of 
the sahibs, more liable to get into trouble when he talked seriously on any 
subject whatever. So he had learned to live inwardly, secretly, in books and 
secret thoughts that could not be uttered. Even his talks with the doctor were a 
kind of talking to himself; for the doctor, good man, understood little of what 
was said to him. But it is a corrupting thing to live one’s real life in secret. One 
should live with the stream of life, not against it. It would be better to be the 
thickest-skulled pukka sahib who ever hiccuped over ‘Forty years on 5 , than to 
live silent, alone, consoling oneself in secret, sterile worlds. 1 

Flory had never been home to England. Why, he could not have explained, 
though he knew well enough. In the beginning accidents had prevented him. 
First there was the War, and after the War his firm were so short of trained 



1 14 Burmese Days 

assistants that they would not let him go for two years more. Then at last he 
had set out. He was pining for England, though he dreaded facing it, as one 
dreads facing a pretty girl when one is collarless and unshaven. When he left 
home he had been a boy, a promising boy and handsome in spite of his 
birthmark,- now, only ten years later, he was yellow, thin, drunken, almost 
middle-aged in habits and appearance. Still, he was pining for England. The 
ship rolled westward over wastes of sea like rough-beaten silver, with the 
winter trade wind behind her. Flory’s thin blood quickenened with the good 
food and the smell of the sea. And it occurred to him -a thing he had actually 
forgotten in the stagnant air of Burma-that he was still young enough to begin 
over again. He would live a year in a civilized society, he would find some girl 
who did not mind his birthmark-a civilized girl, not a pukka memsahib-and 
he would marry her and endure ten, fifteen more years of Burma. Then they 
would retire-he would be worth twelve or fifteen thousand pounds on 
retirement, perhaps. They would buy a cottage m the country, surround 
themselves with friends, books, their children, animals. They would be free 
for ever of the smell of pukka sahibdom. He would forget Burma, the horrible 
country that had come near ruining him. 

When he reached Colombo he found a cable waiting for him. Three men in 
his firm had died suddenly of black-water fever. The firm were sorry, but 
would he please return to Rangoon at once? He should have his leave at the 
earliest possible opportunity. 

Flory boarded the next boat for Rangoon, cursing his luck, and took the 
train back to his headquarters. He was not at Kyauktada then, but at another 
Upper Burma town. All the servants were waiting for him on the platform. He 
had handed them over en bloc to his successor, who had died. It was so queer to 
see their familiar faces again! Only ten days ago he had been speeding for 
England, almost thinking himself in England already; and now back in the old 
stale scene, with the naked black coolies squabbling over the luggage and a 
Burman shouting at his bullocks down the road. 

The servants came crowding round him, a ring of kindly brown faces, 
offering presents. Ko S’la had brought a sambhur skin, the Indians some 
sweetmeats and a garland of marigolds, Ba Pe, a young boy then, a squirrel in a 
wicker cage. There were bullock carts waiting for the luggage. Flory walked up 
to the house, looking ridiculous with the big garland dangling from his neck. 
The light of the cold-weather evening was yellow and kind. At the gate an old 
Indian, the colour of earth, was cropping grass with a tiny sickle. The wives of 
the cook and the mail were kneeling in front of the servants’ quarters, grinding 
curry paste on the stone slab. 

Something turned over in Flory’s heart- It was one of those moments when 
one becomes conscious of a vast change and deterioration in one’s life. For he 
had realized, suddenly, that in his heart he was glad to be coming back. This 
country which he hated was now his native country, his home. He had lived 
here ten years, and every particle of his, body was compounded of Burmese 
soil. Scenes like these-the sallow evening light, the old Indian cropping grass, 
the creak of the cartwheels, the streaming egrets -were more native to him than 



Burmese Days n 5 

England. He had sent deep roots, perhaps his deepest, into a foreign country. 

Since then he had not even applied for home leave. His father had died, then 
his mother, and his sisters, disagreeable horse-faced women whom he had 
never liked, had married and he had almost lost touch with them. He had no tie 
with Europe now, except the tie of books. For he had realized that merely to go 
back to England was no remedy for loneliness; he had grasped the special 
nature of the hell that is reserved for Anglo-Indians. Ah, those poor prosing 
old wrecks in Bath and Cheltenham! Those tomb-like boarding-houses with 
Anglo-Indians littered about in all stages of decomposition, all talking and 
talking about what happened in Boggleywalah in ’88! Poor devils, they know 
what it means to have left one’s heart in an alien and hated country. There was, 
he saw clearly, only one way out. To find someone who would share his life in 
Burma-but really share it, share his inner, secret life, carry away from Burma 
the same memories as he carried. Someone who would love Burma as he loved 
it and hate it as he hated it. Who would help him to live with nothing hidden, 
nothing unexpressed. Someone who understood him: a friend, that was what it 
came down to. 

A friend. Or a wife? That quite impossible she. Someone like Mrs 
Lackersteen, for instance? Some damned memsahib, yellow and thin, 
scandalmongering over cocktails, making kit-kit with the servants, living 
twenty years in the country without learning a word of the language. Not one 
of those, please God. 

Flory leaned over the gate. The moon was vanishing behind the dark wall of 
the jungle, but the dogs were still howling. Some lines from Gilbert came into 
his mind, a vulgar silly jingle but appropriate- something about ‘discoursing 
on your complicated state of mind’. Gilbert was a gifted little skunk. Did all his 
trouble, then, simply boil down to that? Just complicated, unmanly whinings; 
poor-little-rich-girl stuff? Was he no more than a loafer using his idleness to 
invent imaginary woes? A spiritual Mrs Wititterly? A Hamlet without poetry? 
Perhaps. And if so, did that make it any more bearable? It is not the less bitter 
because it is perhaps one’s own fault, to see oneself drifting, rotting, in 
dishonour and horrible futility, and all the while knowing that somewhere 
within one there is the possibility of a decent human being. 

Oh well, God save us from self-pity! Flory went back to the veranda, took up 
the rifle, and wincing slightly, let drive at the pariah dog. There was an echoing 
roar, and the bullet buried itself in the maidan, wide of the mark. A mulberry- 
coloured bruise sprang out on Flory’s shoulder. The dog gave a yell of fright, 
took to its heels, and then, sitting down fifty yards farther away, once more 
began rhythmically baying. 



6 


The morning sunlight slanted up the maidan and struck, yellow as goldleaf, 
against the white face of the bungalow. Four black-purple crows swooped 
down and perched on the veranda rail, waiting their chance to dart in and steal 
the bread and butter that Ko S’la had set down beside Flory’s bed. Flory 
crawled through the mosquito net, shouted to Ko S’la to bring him some gin, 
and then went into the bathroom and sat for a while in a zinc tub of water that 
was supposed to be cold. Feeling better after the gin, he shaved himself. As a 
rule he put off shaving until the evening, for his beard was black and grew 
quickly. 

While Flory was sitting morosely in his bath, Mr Macgregor, in shorts and 
singlet on the bamboo mat laid for the purpose in his bedroom, was struggling 
with Numbers 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 of Nordenflycht’s ‘Physical Jerks for the 
Sedentary’. Mr Macgegor never, or hardly ever, missed his morning exercises. 
Number 8 (flat on the back, raise legs to the perpendicular without bending 
knees) was downright painful for a man of forty-three; Number 9 (flat on the 
back, rise to a sitting posture and touch toes with tips of fingers) was even 
worse. No matter, one must keep fit! As Mr Macgregor lunged painfully in the 
direction of his toes, a brick-red shade flowed upwards from his neck and 
congested his face with a threat of apoplexy. The sweat gleamed on his large, 
tallowy breasts. Stick it out, stick it out! At all costs one must keep fit. 
Mohammed Ali, the bearer, with Mr Macgregor’s clean clothes across his arm, 
watched through the half-open door. His narrow, yellow, Arabian face 
expressed neither comprehension nor curiosity. He had watched these 
contortions— a sacrifice, he dimly imagined, to some mysterious and exacting 
god-every morning for five years. 

At the same time, too, Westfield, who had gone out early, was leaning 
against the notched and ink-stained table of the police station, while the fat 
Sub-inspector interrogated a suspect whom two constables were guarding. 
The suspect was a man of forty, with a grey, timorous face, dressed only in a 
ragged longyi kilted to the knee, beneath which his lank, curved shins were 
speckled with tick-bites. 

‘Who is this fellow?’ said Westfield. 

‘Thief, sir. We catch him in possession of this ring with two emeralds very- 
dear. No explanation. How could he-poor coolie-own a emerald ring? He 
have stole it.’ 

He turned' ferociously upon the suspect, advanced his face tomcat-fashion 



Burmese Days jjj 

till it was almost touching the other’s, and roared in an enormous voice; 

‘You stole the ring!’ 

‘No.’ 

‘You are an old offender!’ 

‘No.’ 

‘You have been in prison!’ 

‘No.’ 

‘Turn round!’ bellowed the Sub-inspector on an inspiration. ‘Bend over!’ 

The suspect turned his grey face in agony towards Westfield, who looked 
away. The two constables seized him, twisted him round and bent him over; 
the Sub-inspector tore off his longyi , exposing his buttocks. 

‘Look at this, sir!’ He pointed to some scars. ‘He have been flogged with 
bamboos. He is an old offender. Therefore he stole the ring!’ 

‘All right, put him in the clink,’ said Westfield moodily, as he lounged away 
from the table with his hands in his pockets. At the bottom of his heart he 
loathed running in these poor devils of common thieves. Dacoits, rebels-yes; 
but not these poor cringing rats! ‘How many have you got in the clink now, 
Maung Ba?’ he said. 

‘Three, sir.’ 

The lock-up was upstairs, a cage surrounded by six-inch wooden bars, 
guarded by a constable armed with a carbine. It was very dark, stifling hot, and 
quite unfurnished, except for an earth latrine that stank to heaven. Two 
prisoners were squatting at the bars, keeping their distance from a third, an 
Indian coolie, who was covered from head to foot with ringworm like, a coat of 
mail. A stout Burmese woman, wife of a constable, was kneeling outside the 
cage ladling rice and watery dahl into tin pannikins. 

‘Is the food good?’ said Westfield. 

‘It is good, most holy one,’ chorused the prisoners. 

The Government provided for the prisoners’ food at the rate of two annas 
and a half per meal per man, out of which the constable’s wife looked to make a 
profit of one anna. 

Flory went outside and loitered down the compound, poking weeds into the 
ground with his stick. At that hour there were beautiful faint colours in 
everything-tender green of leaves, pinkish brown of earth and tree- 
trunks-like aquarelle washes that would vanish in the later glare. Down on the 
maidan flights of small, low-flying brown doves chased one another to and fro, 
and bee-eaters, emerald-green, curvetted like slow swallows. A file of 
sweepers, each with his load half hidden beneath his garment, were marching 
to some dreadful dumping-hole that existed on the edge of the jungle. 
Starveling wretches, with stick-like limbs and knees too feeble to be 
straightened, draped in earth-coloured rags, they were like a procession of 
shrouded skeletons walking. 

The mali was breaking ground for a new flower-bed, down by the pigeon- 
cote that stood near the gate. He was a lymphatic, half-witted Hindu youth, 
who lived his life in almost complete silence, because he spoke some Manipur 
dialect which nobody else understood, not even his Zerbadi wife. His tongue 



1 1 8 Burmese Days 

was also a size too large for his mouth. He salaamed low to Flory, covering his 
face with his hand, then swung his mamootie aloft again and hacked at the dry 
ground with heavy, clumsy strokes, his tender back-muscles quivering. 

A sharp grating scream that sounded like ‘Kwaaa!’ came from the servants’ 
quarters. Ko S’la’s wives had begun their morning quarrel. The tame fighting 
cock, called Nero, strutted zigzag down the path, nervous of Flo, and Ba Pe 
came out with a bowl of paddy and they fed Nero and the pigeons. There were 
more yells from the servants’ quarters, and the gruffer voices of men trying to 
stop the q ua rrel Ko S’la suffered a great deal from his wives. Ma Pu, the first 
wife, was a gaunt hard-faced woman, stringy from much child-bearing, and 
Ma Yi, the ‘little wife’, was a fat, lazy cat some years younger. The two women 
fought incessantly when Flory was in headquarters and they were together. 
Once when Ma Pu was chasing Ko S’la with a bamboo, he had dodged behind 
Flory for protection, and Flory had received a nasty blow on the leg. 

Mr Macgregor was coming up the road, striding briskly and swinging a 
thick walking-stick. He was dressed in khaki pagri-cloth shirt, drill shorts and 
a pigsticker topi. Besides his exercises, he took a brisk two-mile walk every 
morning when he could spare the time. 

‘Top o’ the mornin’ to ye!’ he called to Flory in a hearty matutinal voice, 
putting on an Irish accent. He cultivated a brisk, invigorating, cold-bath 
demeanour at this hour of the morning. Moreover, the libellous article in the 
Burmese Patriot , which he had read overnight, had hurt him, and he was 
affecting a special cheeriness to conceal this. 

‘Morning!’ Flory called back as heartily as he could manage. 

Nasty old bladder of lard! he thought, watching Mr Macgregor up the road. 
How his bottom did stick out in those tight khaki shorts. Like one of those 
beastly middle-aged scoutmasters, homosexuals almost to a man, that you see 
photographs of in the illustrated papers. Dressing himself up in those 
ridiculous clothes and exposing his pudgy, dimpled knees, because it is the 
pukka sahib thing to take exercise before breakfast-disgusting! 

A Burman came up the hill, a splash of white and magenta. It was Flory’ s 
clerk, coming from the tiny office, which was not far from the church. 
Reaching the gate, he shikoed and presented a grimy envelope, stamped 
Burmese-fashion on the point of the flap. 

‘Good morning, sir.’ 

‘Good morning. What’s this thing?’ 

‘Local letter, your honour. Come this morning’s post. Anonymous letter, I 
think, sir.’ 

‘Oh bother. All right. I’ll be down to the office about eleven.’ 

Flory opened the letter. It was written on a sheet of foolscap, and it ran: 

Mr John Flory, 

Sir,— I the undersigned beg to suggest and warn to your honour certain useful pieces of 
information whereby your honour will be much profited, sir. 

Sir, it has been remarked in Kyauktada your honour’s great friendship and intimacy with Dr 
Veraswami, the Civil Surgeon, frequenting with him, inviting him to your house, etc. Sir, we beg 
to inform you that the said Dr Veraswami is not a good man and in no ways a worthy friend of 
European gentlemen. The doctor is eminently dishonest, disloyal and corrupt public servant. 



Burmese Days ng 

Coloured water is he providing to patients at the hospital and selling drugs for own profit, besides 
many bribes, extortions, etc Two prisoners has he flogged with bamboos, afterwards rubbing 
chilis into the place if relatives do not send money Besides this he is implicated with the 
Nationalist Party and lately provided material for a very evil article which appeared in the Burmese 
Patriot attacking Mr Macgregor, the honoured Deputy Commissioner 

He is also sleeping by force with female patients at the hospital 

Wherefore we are much hoping that your honour will eschew same Dr Veraswami and not 
consort with persons who can bring nothing but evil upon your honour 

And shall ever pray for your honour’s long health and prosperity 

(Signed) A FRIEND 

The letter was written in the shaky round hand of the bazaar letter-writer, 
which resembled a copybook exercise written by a drunkard. The letter- 
writer, however, would never have risen to such a word as ‘eschew’. The letter 
must have been dictated by a clerk, and no doubt it came ultimately from U Po 
Kyin. From ‘the crocodile’, Flory reflected. 

He did not like the tone of the letter. Under its appearance of servility it was 
obviously a covert threat. ‘Drop the doctor or we will make it hot for you’, was 
what it said in effect. Not that that mattered greatly; no Englishman ever feels 
himself in real danger from an Oriental. 

Flory hesitated with the letter in his hands. There are two things one can do 
with an anonymous letter. One can say nothing about it, or one can show it to 
the person whom it concerns. The obvious, the decent course was to give the 
letter to Dr Veraswami and let him take what action he chose. 

And yet-it was safer to keep out of this business altogether. It is so 
important (perhaps the most important of all the Ten Precepts of the pukka 
sahib) not to entangle oneself in ‘native’ quarrels. With Indians there must be 
no loyalty, no real friendship. Affection, even love-yes. Englishmen do often 
love Indians-native officers, forest rangers, hunters, clerks, servants. Sepoys 
will weep like children when their colonel retires. Even intimacy is allowable, 
at the right moments. But alliance, partisanship, never! Even to know the 
rights and wrongs of a ‘native’ quarrel is a loss of prestige. 

If he published the letter there would be a row and an official inquiry, and, in 
effect, he would have thrown in his lot with the doctor against U Po Kyin. U 
Po Kyin did not matter, but there were the Europeans; if he, Flory, were too 
conspicuously the doctor’s partisan, there might be hell to pay. Much better to 
pretend that the letter had never reached him. The doctor was a good fellow, 
but as to championing him against the full fury of pukka sahibdom-ah, no, no! 
What shall it profit a man if he save his own soul and lose the whole world? 
Flory began to tear the letter across. The danger of making it public was very 
slight, very nebulous. But one must beware of the nebulous dangers in India. 
Prestige, the breath of life, is itself nebulous. He carefully tore the letter into 
small .pieces and threw them over the gate. 

At this moment there was a terrified scream, quite different from the voices 
of Ko S’la’s wives. The mali lowered his mamootie and gaped in the direction of 
the sound, and Ko S’la, who had also heard it, came running bareheaded from 
the servants’ quarters, while Flo sprang to her feet and yapped sharply. The 
scream was repeated. It came from the jungle behind the house, and it was an 



j 20 Burmese Days 

English voice, a woman’s, crying out in terror. 

There was no way out of the compound by the back. Flory scrambled over 
the gate and came down with his knee bleeding from, a splinter. He ran round 
the compound fence and into the jungle, Flo following. Just behind the house, 
beyond the first fringe of bushes, there was a small hollow, which, as there was 
a pool of stagnant water in it, was frequented by buffaloes from Nyaunglebin. 
Flory pushed his way through the bushes. In the hollow an English girl, chalk- 
faced, was cowering against a bush, while a huge buffalo menaced her with its 
crescent-shaped horns. A hairy calf, no doubt the cause of the trouble, stood 
behind. Another buffalo, neck-deep in the slime of the pool, looked on with 
mild prehistoric face, wondering what was the matter. 

The girl turned an agonized face to Flory as he appeared. ‘Oh, do be quick!’ 
she cried, in the angry, urgent tone of people who are frightened. ‘Please! Help 
me! Help me!’ 

Flory was too astonished to ask any questions. He hastened towards her, 
and, in default of a stick, smacked the buffalo sharply on the nose. With a 
timid, loutish movement the great beast turned aside, then lumbered off 
followed by the calf. The other buffalo also extricated itself from the slime and 
lolloped away. The girl threw herself against Flory, almost into his arms, quite 
overcome by her fright. 

‘Oh, thank you, thank you! Oh, those dreadful things! What are they? I 
thought they were going to kill me. What horrible creatures! What are they?’ 
‘They’re only water-buffaloes. They come from the village up there.’ 
‘Buffaloes?’ 

‘Not wild buffaloes-bison, we call those. They’re just a kind of cattle the 
Burmans keep. I say, they’ve given you a nasty shock. I’m sorry.’ 

She was still clinging closely to his arm, and he could feel her shaking. He 
looked down, but he could not see her face, only the top of her head, hatless, 
with yellow hair as short as a boy’s. And he could see one of the hands on his 
arm. It was long, slender, youthful, with the mottled wrist of a schoolgirl. It 
was several years since he had seen such a hand. He became conscious of the 
soft, youthful body pressed against his own, and the warmth breathing out of 
it; whereat something seemed to thaw and grow warm within him. 

‘It’s all right, they’re gone,’ he said. ‘There’s nothing to be frightened of.’ 
The girl was recovering from her fright, and she stood a little away from 
him, with one hand still on his arm. ‘I’m all right,’ she said ‘It’s nothing. I’m 
not hurt. They didn’t touch me. It was only their looking so awful.’ 

‘They’re quite harmless really. Their horns are set so far back that they can’t 
gore you. They’re very stupid brutes. They only pretend to show fight when 
they’ve- got calves.’ 

They had stood apart now, and a slight embarrassment came over them both 
immediately. Flory had already turned himself sidelong to keep his 
birthmarked cheek away from her. He said: 

‘I say, this is a queer sort of introduction! I haven’t asked yet how you got 
here. Wherever did you come from-if it’s not rude to ask?’ 

T just came out of my uncle’s garden. It seemed such a nice morning, I 



Burmese Days 1 21 

thought I’d go for a walk. And then those dreadful things came after me. I’m 
quite new to this country, you see.’ 

‘Your uncle? Oh, of course! You’re Mr Lackersteen’s niece. We heard you 
were coming. I say, shall we get out on to the maidan? There’ll be a path 
somewhere. What a start for your first morning in Kyauktada! This’ll give you 
rather a bad impression of Burma, I’m afraid.’ 

‘Oh no; only it’s all rather strange. How thick these bushes grow! All kind of 
twisted together and foreign-looking. You could get lost here in a moment. Is 
that what they call jungle?’ 

‘Scrub jungle. Burma’s mostly jungle-a green, unpleasant land, I call it. I 
wouldn’t walk through that grass if I were you. The seeds get into your 
stockings and work their way into your skin.’ 

He let the girl walk ahead of him, feeling easier when she could not see his 
face. She was tallish for a girl, slender, and wearing a lilac-coloured cotton 
frock. From the way she moved her limbs he did not think she could be much 
past twenty. He had not noticed her face yet, except to see that she wore round 
tortoise-shell spectacles, and that her hair was as short as his own. He had 
never seen a woman with cropped hair before, except in the illustrated papers. 

As they emerged on to the maidan he stepped level with her, and she turned 
to face him. Her face was oval, with delicate, regular features; not beautiful, 
perhaps, but it seemed so there, in Burma, where all Englishwomen are yellow 
and thin. He turned his head sharply aside, though the birthmark was away 
from her. He could not bear her to see his worn face too closely. He seemed to 
feel the withered skin round his eyes as though it had been a wound. But he 
remembered that he had shaved that morning, and it gave him courage. He 
said: 

‘I say, you must be a bit shaken up after this business. Would you like to 
come into my place and rest a few minutes before you go home? It’s rather late 
to be out of doors without a hat, too.’ 

‘Oh, thank you, I would,’ the girl said. She could not, he thought, know 
anything about Indian notions of propriety. ‘Is this your house here?’ 

‘Yes. We must go round the front way. I’ll have the servants get a sunshade 
for you. This sun’s dangerous for you, with your short hair.’ 

They walked up the garden path. Flo was frisking round them and trying to 
draw attention to herself. She always barked at strange Orientals, but she liked 
the smell of a European. The sun was growing stronger. A wave of 
blackcurrant scent flowed from the petunias beside the path, and one of the 
pigeons fluttered to the earth, to spring immediately into the air again as Flo 
made a grab at it. Flory and the girl stopped with one consent, to look at the 
flowers. A pang of unreasonable happiness had gone through thgm both. 

‘You really mustn’t go out in this sun without a hat on,’ he repeated, and 
somehow there was an intimacy in saying it. He could not help referring to her 
short hair somehow, it seemed to him so beautiful. To speak of it was hke 
touching it with his hand. 

‘Look, your knee’s bleeding,’ the girl said. ‘Did you do that when 
coming to help me?’ 



122 Burmese Days 

There was a slight trickle of blood, which was drying, purple, on his khaki 
stocking. ‘It’s nothing,’ he said, but neither of them felt at that moment that it 
was nothing. They began chattering with extraordinary eagerness about the 
flowers. The girl ‘adored’ flowers, she said. And Flory led her up the path, 
talking garrulously about one plant and another. 

‘Look how these phloxes grow. They go on blooming for six months in this 
country. They can’t get too much sun. I think those yellow ones must be 
almost the colour of primroses. I haven’t seen a primrose for fifteen years, nor a 
wallflower, either. Those zinnias are fine, aren’t they?-like painted flowers, 
with those wonderful dead colours. These are African marigolds. They’re 
coarse things, weeds almost, but you can’t help liking them, they’re so vivid 
and strong. Indians have an extraordinary affection for them; wherever 
Incjians have been you find marigolds growing, even years afterwards when the 
jungle has buried every other trace of them. But I wish you’d come into the 
veranda and see the orchids. I’ve some I must show that are just like bells of 
gold-but literally like gold. And they smell of honey, almost overpoweringly. 
That’s about the only merit of this beastly country, it’s good for flowers. I hope 
you’re fond of gardening? It’s our greatest consolation, in this country.’ 

‘Oh, I simply adore gardening,’ the girl said. 

They went into the veranda. Ko S’la had hurriedly put on his ingyi and his 
best pink silk gaungbaung , and he appeared from within the house with a tray 
on which were a decanter of gin, glasses and a box of cigarettes. He laid them 
on the table, and, eyeing the girl half apprehensively, put his hands flat 
together and shikoed. 

‘I expect it’s no use offering you a drink at this hour of the morning?’ Flory 
said. ‘I can never get it into my servant’s head that some people can exist 
without gin before breakfast.’ 

He added himself to the number by waving away the drink Ko S’la offered 
him. The girl had sat down in the wicker chair that Ko S’la had set out for her 
at the end of the veranda. The dark-leaved orchids hung behind her head, with 
gold trusses of blossom, breathing out warm honey-scent. Flory was standing 
against the veranda rail, half facing the girl, but keeping his birthmarked cheek 
hidden. 

‘What a perfectly divine view you have from here,’ she said as she looked 
down the hillside. 

‘Yes, isn’t it? Splendid, in this yellow light, before the sun gets going. I love 
that sombre yellow colour the maidan has, and those gold mohur trees, like 
blobs of crimson. And those hills at the horizon, almost black. My camp is on 
the other side of those hills,’ he added. 

The girl, jvho was long-sighted, took off her spectacles to look into the 
distance. He noticed that her eyes were very clear pale blue, paler than a 
harebell. And he noticed the smoothness of the skin round her eyes, like a 
petal, almost. It reminded him of his age and his haggard face again, so that he 
'turned a little more away from her. But he said on impulse: 

' *1 say, what a bit of luck you coming to Kyauktada! You can’t imagine the 
difference it makes to us to see a new .face in these places. After months of our 



Burmese Days 123 

own miserable society, and an occasional official on his rounds and American 
globe-trotters skipping up the Irrawaddy with cameras. I suppose you’ve 
come straight from England?’ 

‘Well, not England exactly. I was living in Paris before I came out here. My 
mother was an artist, you see. 5 

‘Paris! Have you really lived in Paris? By Jove, just fancy coming from Paris 
to Kyauktadal Do you know, it’s positively difficult, in a hole like this, to 
believe that there are such places as Paris.’ 

‘Do you like Paris?’ she said. 

‘I’ve never even seen it. But, good Lord, how I’ve imagined it! Paris-it’s all 
a kind of jumble of pictures in my mind; cafes and boulevards and artists’ 
studios and Villon and Baudelaire and Maupassant all mixed up together. You 
don’t know how the names of those European towns sound to us, out here. And 
did you really live in Paris? Sitting in cafes with foreign art students, drinking 
white wine and talking about Marcel Proust?’ 

‘Oh, that kind of thing, I suppose,’ said the girl, laughing. 

‘What differences you’ll find here! It’s not white wine and Marcel Proust 
here. Whisky and Edgar Wallace more likely. But if you ever want books, you 
might find something you liked among mine. There’s nothing but tripe in the 
Club library. But of course I’m hopelessly behind the times with my books. I 
expect you’ll have read everything under the sun.’ 

‘Oh no. But of course I simply adore reading,’ the girl said. 

‘What it means to meet somebody who cares for books! I mean books worth 
reading, not that garbage in the Club libraries. I do hope you’ll forgive me if I 
overwhelm you with talk. When I meet somebody who’s heard that books 
exist, I’m afraid I go off like a bottle of warm beer. It’s a fault you have to 
pardon in these countries.’ 

‘Oh, but I love talking about books. I think reading is so wonderful. I mean, 
what would life be without it? It’s such a-such a-’ 

‘Such a private Alsatia. Yes-’ 

They plunged into an enormous and eager conversation, first about books, 
then about shooting, in which the girl seemed to have an interest and about 
which she persuaded Flory to talk. She was quite thrilled when he described 
the murder of an elephant which he had perpetrated some years earlier. Flory 
scarcely noticed, and perhaps the girl did not either, that it was he who did all 
the talking. He could not stop himself, the joy of chattering was so great. And 
the girl was in a mood to listen. After all, he had saved her from the buffalo, and 
she did not yet believe that those monstrous brutes could be harmless; for the 
moment he was almost a hero in her eyes. When one does get any credit in this 
life, it is usually for something that one has not done. It was one of those times 
when the conversation flows so easily, so naturally, that one could go on talking 
forever. But suddenly, their pleasure evaporated, they started and fell silent. 
They had noticed that they were no longer alone. 

At the other end of the veranda, between the rails, a coal-black 
moustachioed face was peeping with enormous curiosity. It belonged to old 
Sammy, the ‘Mug’ cook. Behind him stood Ma Pu, Ma Yi; -Ko S¥s fdur 



j 24 Burmese Days 

eldest children, an unclaimed naked child, and two old women who had come 
down from the village upon the news that an ‘Ingaleikma was on view. Like 
carved teak statues with footlong cigars stuck in their wooden faces, the two 
old creatures gazed at the ‘Ingaleikma’ as English yokels might gaze at a Zulu 
warrior in full regalia. 

‘Those people . . .’ the girl said uncomfortably, looking towards them. 

Sammy, seeing himself detected, looked very guilty and pretended to be 
rearranging his pagri. The rest of the audience were a little abashed, except for 
the two wooden-faced old women. 

‘Dash their cheek!’ Flory said. A cold pang of disappointment went through 
him. After all, it would not do for the girl to stay on his veranda any longer. 
Simultaneously both he and she had remembered that they were total 
strangers. Her face had turned a little pink. She began putting on her 
spectacles. 

‘I’m afraid an English girl is rather a novelty to these people,’ he said. ‘They 
don’t mean any harm. Go away!’ he added angrily, waving his hand at the 
audience, whereupon they vanished. 

‘Do you know, if you don’t mind, I think I ought to be going,’ the girl said. 
She had stood up. Tve been out quite a long time. They may be wondering 
where I’ve got to.’ 

‘Must you really? It’s quite early. I’ll see that you don’t have to go home 
bareheaded in the sun.’ 

‘I ought really-’ she began again. 

She stopped, looking at the doorway. Ma Hla May was emerging on to the 
veranda. 

Ma Hla May came forward with her hand on her hip. She had come from 
within the house, with a calm air that asserted her right to be there. The two 
girls stood face to face, less than six feet apart. 

No contrast could have been stranger, the one faintly coloured as an apple- 
blossom, the other dark and garish, with a gleam almost metallic on her 
cylinder of ebony hair and the salmon-pink silk of her longyi. Flory thought he 
had never noticed before how dark Ma Hla May’s face was, and how 
outlandish her tiny, stiff body, straight as a soldier’s, with not a curve in it 
except the vase-like curve of her hips. He stood against the veranda rail and 
watched the two girls, quite disregarded. For the best part of a minute neither 
of them could take her eyes from the other; but which found the spectacle more 
grotesque, more incredible, there is no saying. 

Ma Hla May turned her face round to Flory, with her black brows, thin as 
pencil lines, drawn together. ‘Who is this woman?’ she demanded sullenly. 

He answered casually, as though giving an order to a servant: 

‘Go away this instant. If you make any trouble I will afterwards take a 
bamboo and beat you till not one of your ribs is whole.’ 

Ma Hla May hesitated, shrugged her small shoulders and disappeared. And 
the other, gazing after her, said curiously: 

‘Was that a man or a woman?’ 

‘A, woman,’ he said. ‘One of the servants’ wives, I believe. She came to ask 



Burmese Days 


125 


about the laundry, that was all.’ 

‘Oh, is that what Burmese women are like? They are queer little creatures! I 
saw a lot of them on my way up here in the train, but do you know, I thought 
they were all boys. They’re just like a kind of Dutch doll, aren’t they?’ 

She had begun to move towards the veranda steps, having lost interest in Ma 
Hla May now that she had disappeared. He did not stop her, for he thought Ma 
Hla May quite capable of coming back and making a scene. Not that it 
mattered much, for neither girl knew a word of the other’s language. He called 
to Ko S’ la, and Ko S’ la came running with a big oiled-silk umbrella with 
bamboo ribs. He opened it respectfully at the foot of the steps and held it over 
the girl’s head as she came down. Flory went with them as far as the gate. They 
stopped to shake hands, he turning a little sideways in the strong sunlight, 
hiding his birthmark. 

‘My fellow here will see you home. It was ever so kind of you to come in. I 
can’t tell you how glad I am to have met you. You’ll make such a difference to 
us here in Kyauktada.’ 

‘Good-bye, Mr-oh, how funny! I don’t even know your name.’ 

‘Flory, John Flory. And yours-Miss Lackersteen, is it?’ 

‘Yes. Elizabeth. Good-bye, Mr Flory. And thank you ever so much. That 
awful buffalo. You quite saved my life.’ 

‘It was nothing. I hope I shall see you at the Club this evening? I expect your 
uncle and aunt will be coming down. Good-bye for the time being, then.’ 

He stood at the gate, watching them as they went, Elizabeth-lovely name, 
too rare nowadays. He hoped she spelt it with a Z. Ko S’la trotted after her at a 
queer uncomfortable gait, reaching the umbrella over her head and keeping his 
body as far away from her as possible. A cool breath of wind blew up the hill. It 
was one of those momentary winds that blow sometimes in the cold weather in 
Burma, coming from nowhere, filling one with thirst and with nostalgia for 
cold sea-pools, embraces of mermaids, waterfalls, caves of ice. It rustled 
through the wide domes of the gold mohur trees, and fluttered the fragments of 
the anonymous letter that Flory had thrown over the gate half an hour earlier. 


7 


Elizabeth lay on the sofa in the Lackersteen’s drawing-room, with her feet up 
and a cushion behind her head, reading Michael Arlen’s These Charming 
People. In a general way Michael Arlen was her favourite author, but she was 
inclined to prefer William J. Locke when she wanted something serious. 

The drawing-room was a cool, light-coloured room with lime-washed walls 
a yard thick; it was large, but seemed smaller than' it was, because of a litter of 
occasional tables and Benares brassware ornaments. It smelt of chintz and 



126 Burmese Days 

dying flowers. Mrs Lackersteen was upstairs, sleeping. Outside, the servants 
lay silent in their quarters, their heads tethered to their wooden pillows by the 
death-like sleep of midday. Mr Lackersteen, in his small wooden office down 
the road, was probably sleeping too. No one stirred except Elizabeth, and the 
chokra who pulled the punkah outside Mrs Lackersteen’s bedroom, lying on 
his back with one heel in the loop of the rope. 

Elizabeth was just turned twenty-two, and was an orphan. Her father had 
been less of a drunkard than his brother Tom, but he was a man of similar 
stamp. He was a tea-broker, and his fortunes fluctuated greatly, but he was by 
nature too optimistic to put money aside in prosperous phases. Elizabeth’s 
mother had been an incapable, half-baked, vapouring, self-pitying woman 
who shirked all the normal duties of life on the strength of sensibilities which 
she did not possess. After messing about for years with such things as 
Women’s Suffrage and Higher Thought, and making many abortive attempts 
at literature, she had finally taken up with painting. Painting is the only art that 
can be practised without either talent or hard work. Mrs Lackersteen’s pose 
was that of an artist exiled among ‘the Philistines ’-these, needless to say, 
included her husband-and it was a pose that gave her almost unlimited scope 
for making a nuisance of herself. 

In the last year of the War Mr Lackersteen, who had managed to avoid 
service, made a great deal of money, and just after the Armistice they moved 
into a huge, new, rather bleak house in Highgate, with quantities of 
greenhouses, shrubberies, stables and tennis courts. Mr Lackersteen had 
engaged a horde of servants, even, so great was his optimism, a butler. 
Elizabeth was sent for two terms to a very expensive boarding-school. Oh, the 
joy, the joy, the unforgettable joy of those two terms! Four of the girls at the 
school were ‘the Honourable’; nearly all of them had ponies of their own, on 
which they were allowed to go riding on Saturday afternoons. There is a short 
period in everyone’s life when his character is fixed forever; with Elizabeth, it 
was those two terms during which she rubbed shoulders with the rich. 
Thereafter her whole code of living was summed up in one belief, and that a 
simple one. It was that the Good (‘lovely’ was her name for it) is synonymous 
with the expensive, the elegant, the aristocratic; and the Bad (‘beastly’) is the 
cheap, the low, the shabby, the laborious. Perhaps it is in order to teach this 
creed that expensive girls’ schools exist. The feeling subtilized itself as 
Elizabeth grew older, diffused itself through all her thoughts. Everything from 
a pair of stockings to a human soul was classifiable as ‘lovely’ or ‘beastly’. And 
unfortunately-for Mr Lackersteen’s prosperity did not last-it was the 
‘beastly’ that had predominated in her life. 

The inevitable crash came late in 1919- Elizabeth was taken away from 
school, to continue her education at a succession of cheap, beastly schools, 
with gaps of a term or two when her father could not pay the fees. He died 
when she was twenty, of influenza, Mrs Lackersteen was left with an income of 
£1 50 a year, which was to die with her. The two women could not, under Mrs 
Lackersteen’ s management, live on three pounds a week in England. They 
moved to Paris, where life was cheaper and where Mrs Lackersteen intended 



Burmese Days 1 27 

to dedicate herself wholly to Art. 

Paris! Living in Paris! Flory had been a little wide of the mark when he 
pictured those interminable conversations with bearded artists under the 
green plane trees. Elizabeth’s life in Paris had not been quite like that. 

Her mother had taken a studio in the Montparnasse quarter, and relapsed at 
once into a state of squalid, muddling idleness. She was so foolish with money 
that her income would not come near covering expenses, and for several 
months Elizabeth did not even have enough to eat. Then she found a job as 
visiting teacher of English to the family of a French bank manager. They called 
her ‘ notre mees Anglaise’. The banker lived in the twelfth arrondissement, a 
long way from Montparnasse, and Elizabeth had taken a room in a pension 
near by. It was a narrow, yellow-faced house in a side street, looking ou^t on to a 
poulterer’s shop, generally decorated with reeking carcasses of wild boars, 
which old gentlemen like decrepit satyrs would visit every morning and sniff 
long and lovingly. Next door to the poulterer’s was a fly-blown cafe with the 
sign ‘Cafe de l’Amitie. Bock Formidable 5 . How Elizabeth had loathed that 
pension! The patroness was an old black-clad sneak who spent her life in 
tiptoeing up and down stairs in hopes of catching the boarders washing 
stockings in their hand-basins. The boarders, sharp-tongued bilious widows, 
pursued the only man in the establishment, a mild, bald creature who worked 
in La Samaritaine, like sparrows worrying a bread-crust. At meals all of them 
watched each others’ plates to see who was given the biggest helping. The 
bathroom was a dark den with leprous walls and a rickety verdigrised geyser 
which would spit two inches of tepid water into the bath and then mulishly 
stop working. The bank manager whose children Elizabeth taught was a man 
of fifty, with a fat, worn face and a bald, dark yellow crown resembling an 
ostrich’s egg. The second day after her arrival he came into the room where the 
children were at their lessons, sat down beside Elizabeth and immediately 
pinched her elbow. The third day he pinched her on the calf, the fourth day 
behind the knee, the fifth day above the knee. Thereafter, every evening, it was 
a silent battle between the two of them, her hand under the table, struggling 
and struggling to keep that ferret-like hand away from her. 

It was a mean, beastly existence. In fact, it reached levels of ‘beastliness’ 
which Elizabeth had not previously known to exist. But the thing that most 
depressed her, most filled her with the sense of sinking into some horrible 
lower world, was her mother’s studio. Mrs Lackersteen was one of those 
people who go utterly to pieces when they are deprived of servants. She lived 
in a restless nightmare between painting and housekeeping, and never worked 
at either. At irregular intervals she went to a ‘school’ where she produced 
greyish still-lifes under the guidance of a master whose technique was founded 
on dirty brushes; for the rest, she messed about miserably at home with teapots 
and frying-pans. The state of her studio was more than depressing to 
Elizabeth; it was evil, Satanic. It was a cold, dusty pigsty, with piles of books 
and papers littered all over the floor, generations of saucepans slumbering in 
their grease on the rusty gas-stove, the bed never made till afternoon, and 
everywhere-in every possible place where they could be stepped on or 



128 Burmese Days 

knocked over— tins of paint-fouled turpentine and pots half full of cold black 
tea. You would lift a cushion from a chair and find a plate holding the remains 
of a poached egg underneath it. As soon as Elizabeth entered the door she 
would burst out: 

‘Oh, Mother, Mother dearest, how can you? Look at the state of this room! 
It is so terrible to live like this!’ , 

‘The room, dearest? What’s the matter? Is it untidy?’ 

‘Untidy! Mother, need you leave that plate of porridge in the middle of your 
bed? And those saucepans! It does look so dreadful. Suppose anyone came in!’ 

The rapt, other-wordly look which Mrs Lackersteen assumed when 
anything like work presented itself, would come into her eyes. 

‘None of my friends would mind, dear. We are such Bohemians, we artists. 
You don’t understand how utterly wrapped up we all are in our painting. You 
haven’t the artistic temperament, you see, dear.’ 

‘I must try and clean some of those saucepans. I just can’t bear to think of 
you livmg like this. What have you done with the scrubbing-brush?’ 

‘The scrubbing-brush? Now, let me think, I know I saw it somewhere. Ah 
yes! I used it yesterday to clean my palette. But it’ll be all right if you give it a 
good wash m turpentine.’ 

Mrs Lackersteen would sit down and continue smudging a sheet of 
sketching paper with a Conte crayon while Elizabeth worked. 

‘How wonderful you are, dear. So practical! I can’t think whom you inherit 
it from Now with me, Art is simply everything. I seem to feel it like a great sea 
surging up inside me. It swamps everything mean and petty out of existence. 
Yesterday I ate my lunch off Nash’s Magazine to save wasting time washing 
plates. Such a good idea! When you want a clean plate you just tear off a sheet,’ 
etc., etc., etc. 

Elizabeth had no friends in Paris. Her mother’s friends were women of the 
same stamp as herself, or elderly ineffectual bachelors living on small incomes 
and practising contemptible half-arts such as wood-engraving or painting on 
porcelain. For the rest, Elizabeth saw only foreigners, and she disliked all 
foreigners en bloc; or at least all foreign men, with their cheap-looking clothes 
and their revolting table manners. She had one great solace at this time. It was 
to go to the American library in the rue de l’Elysde and look at the illustrated 
papers. Sometimes on a Sunday or her free afternoon she would sit there for 
hours at the big shiny table, dreaming, over the Sketch , the Tatler , the 
Graphic , the Sporting and Dramatic. 

Ah, what joys were pictured there! ‘Hounds meeting on the lawn of 
Charlton Hall, the lovely Warwickshire seat of Lord Burro wdean.’ ‘The Hon. 
Mrs Tyke-Bowlby in the Park with her splendid Alsatian, Kublai Khan, 
which took second prize at Cruft’s this summer.’ ‘Sunbathing at Cannes. Left 
to right: Miss Barbara Pilbrick, Sir Edward Tuke, Lady Pamela Westrope, 
Captain “Tuppy” Benacre.’ 

Lovely, lovely, golden world! On two occasions the face of an old 
schoolfellow looked at Elizabeth from the page. It hurt her in her breast to see 
it. There they all were, her old schoolfellows, with their horses and their cars 



Burmese Days 129 

and their husbands in the cavalry; and here she, tied to that dreadful job, that 
dreadful pension, her dreadful mother! Was it possible that there was no 
escape? Could she be doomed forever to this sordid meanness, with no hope of 
ever getting back to the decent world again? 

It was not unnatural, with the example of her mother before her eyes, that 
Elizabeth should have a healthy loathing of Art. In fact, any excess of 
intellect-‘braininess’ was her word for it-tended to belong, in her eyes, to the 
‘beastly’. Real people, she felt, decent people-people who shot grouse, went to 
Ascot, yachted at Cowes-were not brainy. They didn’t go in for this nonsense 
of writing books and fooling with paintbrushes; and all these Highbrow 
ideas- Socialism and all that. ‘Highbrow’ was a bitter word in her vocabulary. 
And when it happened, as it did once or twice, that she met a veritable artist 
who was willing to work penniless all his life, rather than sell himself to a bank 
or an insurance company, she despised him far more than she despised the 
dabblers of her mother’s circle. That a man should turn deliberately away from 
all that was good and decent, sacrifice himself for a futility that led nowhere, 
was shameful, degrading, evil. She dreaded spinsterhood, but she would have 
endured it a thousand lifetimes through rather than marry such a man. 

When Elizabeth had been nearly two years in Paris her mother died abruptly 
of ptomaine poisoning. The wonder was that she had not died of it sooner. 
Elizabeth was left with rather less than a hundred pounds in the world. Her 
uncle and aunt cabled at once from Burma, asking her to come out and stay 
with them, and saying that a letter would follow. 

Mrs Lackersteen had reflected for some time over the letter, her pen 
between her lips, looking down at the page with her delicate triangular face like 
a meditative snake. 

‘I suppose we must have her out here, at any rate for a year. What a bore! 
However, they generally marry within a year if they’ve any looks at all. What 
am I to say to the girl, Tom?’ 

‘Say? Oh, just say she’ll pick up a husband out here a damn sight easier than 
at home. Something of that sort, y’know.’ 

‘My dear Tom! What impossible things you say!’ 

Mrs Lackersteen wrote: 

Of course, this is a very small station and we are in the jungle a great deal of the time. I’m afraid 
you will find it dreadfully dull after the delights of Pans But really in some ways these small 
stations have their advantages for a young girl. She finds herself quite a queen m the local society. 
The unmarried men are so lonely that they appreciate a girl’s society in a quite wonderful way, 
etc., etc. 

Elizabeth spent thirty pounds on summer frocks and set sail immediately. 
The ship, heralded by rolling porpoises, ploughed across the Mediterranean 
and down the Canal into a sea of staring, enamel-like blue, then out into the 
green wastes of the Indian Ocean, where flocks of flying fish skimmed in terror 
from the approaching hull. At night the waters were phosphorescent, and the 
wash of the bow was like a moving arrowhead of green fire. Elizabeth ‘loved’ 
the life on board ship. She loved the dancing on deck at nights, the cocktails 



1 30 Burmese Days 

which every man on board seemed anxious to buy for her, the deck games, of 
which, however, she grew tired at about the same time as the other members of 
the younger set. It was nothing to her that her mother’s death was only two 
months past. She had never cared greatly for her mother, and besides, the 
people here knew nothing of her affairs. It was so lovely after those two 
graceless years to breathe the air of wealth again. Not that most of the people 
here were rich; but on board ship everyone behaves as though he were rich. 
She was going to love India, she knew She had formed quite a picture of India, 
from the other passengers’ conversation; she had even learned some of the 
more necessary Hindustani phrases, such as ‘ idher ao’, ‘ 'jaldi ‘ sahiblog etc. In 
anticipation she tasted the agreeable atmosphere of Clubs, with punkahs 
flapping and barefooted white-turbaned boys reverently salaaming; and 
maidans where bronzed Englishmen with little clipped moustaches galloped to 
and fro, whacking polo balls It was almost as nice as being really rich, the way 
people lived in India. 

They sailed into Colombo through green glassy waters, where turtles and 
black snakes floated basking. A fleet of sampans came racing out to meet the 
ship, propelled by coal-black men with lips stained redder than blood by betel 
juice. They yelled and struggled round the gangway while the passengers 
descended. As Elizabeth and her friends came down, two sampan-wallahs, 
their prows nosing against the gangway, besought them with yells 

‘Don’t you go with him, missiel Not with him! Bad wicked man he, not fit 
taking missie!’ 

‘Don’t you listen him lies, missie! Nasty low fellow! Nasty low tricks him 
playing. Nasty native tricks!’ 

‘Ha, ha! He is not native himself! Oh no! Him European man, white skin all 
same, missie! Ha ha!’ 

‘Stop your bat , you two, or I’ll fetch one of you a kick,’ said the husband of 
Elizabeth’s friend-he was a planter. They stepped into one of the sampans and 
were rowed towards the sun-bright quays. And the successful sampan- wallah 
turned and discharged at his rival a mouthful of spittle which he must have 
been saving up for a very long time. 

This was the Orient. Scents of coco-nut oil and sandalwood, cinnamon and 
turmeric, floated across the water on the hot, swimming air. Elizabeth’s friends 
drove her out to Mount Lavinia, where they bathed in a lukewarm sea that 
foamed like Coca-Cola. She came back to the ship in the evening, and they 
reached Rangoon a week later. 

North of Mandalay the train, fuelled with wood, crawled at twelve miles an 
hour across a vast, parched plain, bounded at its remote edges by blue rings of 
hills. White egrets stood pbised, motionless, like herons, and piles of drying 
chilis gleamed crimson in the sun. Sometimes a white pagoda rose from the 
plain like the breast of a supine giantess. The early tropic night settled down, ' 
and the train jolted on, slowly, stopping at little stations where barbaric yells 
sounded from the darkness. Half-naked men with their long hair knotted 
behind their heads moved to and fro in torchlight, hideous as demons in 
Elizabeth’s eyes. The train plunged into forest, and unseen branches brushed 



Burmese Days 131 

against the windows. It was about nine o’clock when they reached Kyauktada, 
where Elizabeth’s uncle and aunt were waiting with Mr Macgregor’s car, and 
with some servants carrying torches. Her aunt came forward and took 
Elizabeth’s shoulders in her delicate, saurian hands. 

‘I suppose you are our niece Elizabeth? We are so pleased to see you,’ she 
said, and kissed her. 

Mr Lackersteen peered over his wife’s shoulder in the torchlight. He gave a 
half-whistle, exclaimed, ‘Well, I’ll be damned!’ and then seized Elizabeth and 
kissed her, more warmly than he need have done, she thought. She had never 
seen either of them before. 

After dinner, under the punkah in the drawing-room, Elizabeth and her 
aunt had a talk together Mr Lackersteen was strolling in the garden, 
ostensibly to smell the frangipani, actually to have a surreptitious drink that 
one of the servants smuggled to him from the back of the house. 

‘My dear, how really lovely you are! Let me look at you again.’ She took her 
by the shoulders. ‘I do think that Eton crop suits you. Did you have it done in 
Paris?’ 

‘Yes. Everyone was getting Eton-cropped. It suits you if you’ve got a fairly 
small head.’ 

‘Lovely! And those tortoise-shell spectacles-such a becoming fashion! I’m 
told that all the-er-demi-mondaines in South America have taken to wearing 
them. I’d no idea I had such a ravishing beauty for a niece. How old did you say 
you were, dear?’ 

‘Twenty-two.’ 

‘Twenty-two! How delighted all the men will be when we take you to the 
Club tomorrow! They get so lonely, poor things, never seeing a new face. And 
you were two whole years in Paris? I can’t think what the men there can have 
been about to let you leave unmarried.’ 

‘I’m afraid I didn’t meet many men, Aunt. Only foreigners. We had to live 
so quietly. And I was working,’ she added, thinking this rather a disgraceful 
admission. 

‘Of course, of course,’ sighed Mrs Lackersteen. ‘One hears the same thing 
on every side. Lovely girls having to work for their living. It is such a shame! I 
think it’s so terribly selfish, don’t you, the way these men remain unmarried 
while there are so many poor girls looking for husbands?’ Elizabeth not 
answering this, Mrs Lackersteen added with ano'ther sigh, ‘I’m sure if I were a 
young girl I’d marry anybody, literally anybody V 

The two women’s eyes met. There was a great deal that Mrs Lackersteen 
wanted to say, but she had no intention of doing more than hint at it obliquely. 
A great deal of her conversation was carried on by hints; she generally 
contrived, however, to make her meaning reasonably clear. She said in a 
tenderly impersonal tone, as though discussing a subject of general interest: 

‘Of course, I must say this. There are cases when, if girls fail to get married 
it’s their own fault. It happens even out here sometimes. Only a short time ago I 
remember a case-a girl came out and stayed a whole year with hex brother, and 
she had offers from all kinds of men-policemen, forest officers, men in timber 



7 22 Burmese Days 

firms with Quite good prospects. And she refused them all; she wanted to marry 
into the I.C.S., I heard. Well, what do you expect? Of course her brother 
couldn’t go on keeping her forever. And now I hear she’s at home, poor thing, 
working as a kmd of lady help, practically a servant. And getting only fifteen 
shillings a week! Isn’t it dreadful to think of such things?’ 

‘Dreadful!’ Elizabeth echoed. 

No more was said on this subject. In the morning, after she came back from 
Flory’s house, Elizabeth was describing her adventure to her aunt and uncle. 
They were at breakfast, at the flower-laden table, with the punkah flapping 
overhead and the tall stork-like Mohammedan butler in his white suit and 
pagri standing behind Mrs Lacker steen’s chair, tray in hand. 

‘And oh, Aunt, such an interesting thing! A Burmese girl came on to the 
veranda. I’d never seen one before, at least, not knowing they were girls. Such 
a queer little thing- she was almost like a doll with her round yellow face and 
her black hair screwed up on top. She only looked about seventeen. Mr Flory 
said she was his laundress.’ 

The Indian butler’s long body stiffened. He squinted down at the girl with 
his white eyeballs large in his black face. He spoke English well. Mr 
Lackersteen paused with a forkful of fish half-way from his plate and his crass 
mouth open. 

‘Laundress?’ he said. ‘Laundress! I say, dammit, some mistake there! No 
such thing as a laundress in this country, y’know. Laundering work’s all done 
by men. If you ask me-’ 

And then he stopped very suddenly, almost as though someone had trodden 
on his toe under the table. 


8 


That evening Flory told Ko S’la to send for the barber-he was the only barber 
in the town, an Indian, and he made a living by shaving the Indian coolies at 
the rate of eight annas a month for a dry shave every other day. The Europeans 
patronized him for lack of any other. The barber was waiting on the veranda 
when Flory came back from tennis, and Flory sterilized the scissors with 
boiling water and Condy’s fluid and had his hair cut. 

‘Lay out my best Palm Beach suit,’ he told Ko S’la, ‘and a silk shirt and my 
sambhur-skin shoes. Also that new tie that came from Rangoon last week.’ 

T have done so, thakin / said Ko S’la, meaning that he would do so. When 
Flory came into the bedroom he found Ko S’la waiting beside the clothes he 
had laid out, with a faintly sulky air. It was immediately apparent that Ko S’la 
knew why Flory was dressing himself up (that is, in hopes of meeting 
Elizabeth) and that he disapproved of it. 



Burmese Days J 33 

‘What are you waiting for?’ Flory said. 

‘To help you dress, thakinJ 

‘I shall dress myself this evening. You can go. 5 

He was going to shave-the second time that day-and he did not want Ko 
S’la to see him take shaving things into the bathroom. It was several years since 
he had shaved twice in one day. What providential luck that he had sent for 
that new tie only last week, he thought. He dressed himself very carefully, and 
spent nearly a quarter of an hour in brushing his hair, which was stiff and 
would never lie down after it had been cut. 

Almost the next moment, as it seemed, he was walking with Elizabeth down 
the bazaar road. He had found her alone in the Club ‘library’, and with a 
sudden burst of courage asked her to come out with him; and she had come 
with a readiness that surprised him; not even stopping to say anything to her 
uncle and aunt. He had lived so long m Burma, he had forgotten English ways. 
It was very dark under the peepul trees of the bazaar road, the foliage hiding 
the quarter moon, but the stars here and there in a gap blazed white and low, 
like lamps hanging on invisible threads. Successive waves of scent came 
rolling, first the cloying sweetness of frangipani, then a cold putrid stench of 
dung or decay from the huts opposite Dr Veraswami’s bungalow. Drums were 
throbbing a little distance away. 

As he heard the drums Flory remembered that a pzve was being acted a little 
farther down the road, opposie U Po Kyin’s house; in fact, it was U Po Kyin 
who had made arrangements for the pzve , though someone else had paid for it. 
A daring thought occurred to Flory. He would take Elizabeth to the pzvel She 
would love it-she must; no one with eyes in his head could resist a pzve- dance. 
Probably there would be a scandal when they came back to the Club together 
after a long absence; but damn it! what did it matter? She was different from 
that herd of fools at the Club. And it would be such fun to go to the pzve 
together! At this moment the music burst out with a fearful pandemonium-a 
strident squeal of pipes, a rattle like castanets and the hoarse thump of drums, 
above which a man’s voice was brassily squalling. 

‘Whatever is that noise?’ said Elizabeth, stopping. ‘It sounds just like a jazz 
band!’ 

‘Native music. They’re having a pwe-that’s a kind of Burmese play; a cross 
between a historical drama and a revue, if you can imagine that. It’ll interest 
you, I think. Just round the bend of the road here.’ 

‘Oh,’ she said rather doubtfully. 

They came round the bend into a glare of light. The whole road for thirty 
yards was blocked by the audience watching the pzve. At the back there was a 
raised stage, under humming petrol lamps, with the orchestra squalling and 
banging in front of it; on the stage two men dressed in clothes that reminded 
Elizabeth of Chinese pagodas were posturing with curved swords in their 
hands. All down the roadway it was a sea of white muslin backs of women, pink 
scarves flung round their shoulders and black hair-cylinders. A few sprawled 
on their mats, fast asleep. An old Chinese with a tray of peanuts was threading 
his way through the crowd, intoning mournfully, ‘ Myaype ! MyaypeP 



134 Burmese Days 

‘We’ll stop and watch a few minutes if you like/ Flory said. 

The blaze of lights and the appalling din of the orchestra had almost dazed 
Elizabeth, but what startled her most of all was the sight of this crowd of 
people sitting in the road as though it had been the pit of a theatre. 

‘Do they always have their plays in the middle of the road?’ she said. 

‘As a rule. They put up a rough stage and take it down in the morning. The 
show lasts all night.’ 

‘But are they allowed to-blocking up the whole roadway?’ 

‘Oh yes. There are no traffic regulations here. No traffic to regulate, you see.’ 

It struck her as very queer. By this time almost the entire audience had 
turned round on their mats to stare at the ‘Ingaleikma’. There were half a 
dozen chairs in the middle of the crowd, where some clerks and officials were 
sitting. U Po Kyin was among them, and he was making efforts to twist his 
elephantine body round and greet the Europeans. As the music stopped the 
pock-marked Ba Taik came hastening through the crowd and shikoed low to 
Flory, with his timorous air. 

‘Most holy one, my master U Po Kyin asks whether you and the young white 
lady will not come and watch our pwe for a few minutes. He has chairs ready 
for you.’ 

‘They’re asking us to come and sit down,’ Flory said to Elizabeth. ‘Would 
you like to? It’s rather fun. Those two fellows will clear off in a moment and 
there’ll be some dancing. If it wouldn’t bore you for a few minutes?’ 

Elizabeth felt very doubtful. Somehow it did not seem right or even safe to 
go in among that smelly native crowd. However, she trusted Flory, who 
presumably knew what was proper, and allowed him to lead her to the chairs. 
The Burmans made way on their mats, gazing after her and chattering; her 
shins brushed against warm, muslin-clad bodies, there was a feral reek of 
sweat. U Po Kyin leaned over towards her, bowing as well as he could and 
saying nasally: 

‘Kindly to sit down, madam! I am most honoured to make your 
acquaintance. Good evening. Good morning, Mr Flory, sir! A most 
unexpected pleasure. Had we known that you were to honour us with your 
company, we would have provided whiskies and other European refresh- 
ments. Ha ha!’ 

He laughed, and his betel-reddened teeth gleamed in the lamplight like red 
tinfoil. He was so vast and so hideous that Elizabeth could not help shrinking 
from him. A slender youth in a purple longyi was bowing to her and holding 
out a tray with two glasses of yellow sherbet, iced. U Po Kyin clapped his 
hands sharply, c Hey haunggalay!’ he called to a boy beside him. He gave some 
instructions in Burmese, and the boy pushed his way to the edge of the stage. 

‘He’s telling them to bring on their best dancer in our honour,’ Flory said. 
‘Look, here she comes.’ 

A girl who had been squatting at the back of the stage, smoking, stepped 
forward into the lamplight. She was very young, slim-shouldered, breastless, 
dressed in a pale blue satin longyi that hid her feet. The skirts of Her ingyi 
curved outwards above hex hips in little panniers, according to the ancient 



Burmese Days 13 5 

Burmese fashion. They were like the petals of a downward-pointing flower. 
She threw her cigar languidly to one of the men in the orchestra, and then, 
holding out one slender arm, writhed it as though to shake the muscles loose 

The orchestra burst into a sudden loud squalling. There were pipes like 
bagpipes, a strange instrument consisting of plaques of bamboo which a man 
struck with a little hammer, and in the middle there was a man surrounded by 
twelve tall drums of different sizes. He reached rapidly from one to another, 
thumping them with the heel of his hand. In a moment the girl began to dance. 
But at first it was not a dance, it was a rhythmic nodding, posturing and 
twisting of the elbows, like the movements of one of those jointed wooden 
figures on an old-fashioned roundabout The way her neck and elbows rotated 
was precisely like a jointed doll, and yet incredibly sinuous. Her hands, 
twisting like snakeheads with the fingers close together, could lie back until 
they were almost along her forearms. By degrees her movements quickened. 
She began to leap from side to side, flinging herself down in a kind of curtsy 
and springing up again with extraordinary agility, in spite of the long longyi 
that imprisoned her feet Then she danced in a grotesque posture as though 
sitting down, knees bent, body leaned forward, with her arms extended and 
writhing, her head also moving to the beat of the drums. The music quickened 
to a climax. The girl rose upright and whirled round as swiftly as a top, the 
pannier of her ingyi flying out about her like the petals of a snowdrop. Then the 
music stopped as abruptly as it had begun, and the girl sank again into a curtsy, 
amid raucous shouting from the audience. 

Elizabeth watched the dance with a mixture of amazement, boredom and 
something approaching horror. She had sipped her drink and found that it 
tasted like hair oil. On a mat by her feet three Burmese girls lay fast asleep with 
their heads on the same pillow, their small oval faces side by side like the faces 
of kittens. Under cover of the music Flory was speaking in a low voice into 
Elizabeth’s ear commenting on the dance. 

T knew this would interest you; that’s why I brought you here. You’ve read 
books and been in civilized places, you’re not like the rest of us miserable 
savages here. Don’t you think this is worth watching, in its queer way? Just 
look at that girl’s movements-look at that strange, bent-forward pose like a 
marionette, and the way her arms twist from the elbow like a cobra rising to 
strike. It’s grotesque, it’s even ugly, with a sort of wilful ugliness. And there’s 
something sinister in it too. There’s a touch of the diabolical in all Mongols. 
And yet when you look closely, what art, what centuries of culture you can see 
behind it! Every movement that girl makes has been studied and handed down 
through innumerable generations. Whenever you look closely at the art of 
these Eastern peoples you can see that- a civilization stretching back and back, 
practically the same, into times when we were dressed in woad. In some way 
that I can’t define to you, the whole life and spirit of Burma is summed up in 
the way that girl twists her arms. When you see her you can see the rice fields, 
the villages under the teak trees,, the pagodas, the priests in their yellow robes, 
the buffaloes swimming the rivers in the early morning, Thibaw’s palace-’ 

His voice stopped abruptly as the music stopped. There were certain things, 



j ^6 Burmese Days 

and a pwe - dance was one of them, that pricked him to talk discursively and 
incautiously; but now he realized that he had only been talking like a character 
in a novel, and not a very good novel. He looked away. Elizabeth had listened 
to him with a chill of discomfort. What was the man talking about? was her first 
thought. Moreover, she had caught the hated word Art more than once. For 
the first time she remembered that Flory was a total stranger and that it had 
been unwise to come out with him alone. She looked round her, at the sea of 
dark faces and the lurid glare of the lamps; the strangeness of the scene almost 
frightened her. What was she doing in this place? Surely it was not right to be 
sitting among the black people like this, almost touching them, in the scent of 
their garlic and their sweat? Why was she not back at the Club with the other 
white people? Why had he brought her here, among this horde of natives, to 
watch this hideous and savage spectacle? 

The music struck up, and the pwe girl began dancing again. Her face was 
powdered so thickly that it gleamed in the lamplight like a chalk mask with live 
eyes behind it. With that dead-white oval face and those wooden gestures she 
was monstrous, like a demon. The music changed its tempo, and the girl began 
to sing in a brassy voice. It was a song with a swift trochaic rhythm, gay yet 
fierce. The crowd took it up, a hundred voices chanting the harsh syllables in 
unison. Still in that strange bent posture the girl turned round and danced 
with her buttocks protruded towards the audience. Her silk longyi gleamed like 
metal. With hands and elbows still rotating she wagged her posterior from side 
to side. Then-astonishing feat, quite visible through the longyi— she began to 
wriggle her two buttocks independently in time with the music. 

There was a shout of applause from the audience. The three girls asleep on 
the mat woke up at the same moment and began clapping their hands wildly. A 
clerk shouted nasally ‘Bravo! Bravo!’ in English for the Europeans’ benefit. 
But U Po Kyin frowned and waved his hand. He knew all about European 
women. Elizabeth, however, had already stood up. 

Tm going. It’s time we were back,’ she said abruptly. She was looking away, 
but Flory could see that her face was pink. 

He stood up beside her, dismayed. ‘But, I say! Couldn’t you stay a few 
minutes longer? I know it’s late, but-they brought this girl on two hours 
before she was due, in our honour. Just a few minutes?’ 

‘I can’t help it, I ought to have been back ages ago. I don’t know what my 
uncle and aunt will be thinking.’ 

She began at once to pick her way through the crowd, and he followed her, 
with not even time to thank the pwe people for their trouble. The Burmans 
made way with a sulky air. How like these English people, to upset everything 
by sending for the best dancer and then go away almost before she had started! 
There was a fearful row as soon as Flory and Elizabeth had gone, the pwe girl 
refusing to go on with her dance and the audience demanding that she should 
continue. However, peace was restored when two clowns hurried on to the 
stage and began letting off crackers and making obscene jokes. 

Flory followed the girl abjectly up the road. She was walking quickly, her 
head turned away, and for some moments she would not speak. What a thing to 



Burmese Days 137 

happen, when they had been getting on so well together! He kept trying to 
apologize. 

‘ I’m so sorry! I’d no idea you’d mind-’ 

‘It’s nothing. What is there to be sorry about? I only said it was time to go 
back, that’s all.’ 

‘I ought to have thought. One gets not to notice that kind of thing in this 
country. These people’s sense of decency isn’t the same as ours-it’s stricter m 
some ways-but-’ 

‘It’s not that! It’s not that!’ she exclaimed quite angrily. 

He saw that he was only making it worse. They walked on in silence, he 
behind. He was miserable. What a bloody fool he had been! And yet all the 
while he had no inkling of the real reason why she was angry with him. It was 
not the pwe girl’s behaviour, in itself, that had offended her; it had only 
brought things to a head. But the whole expedition-the very notion of wanting 
to rub shoulders with all those smelly natives-had impressed her badly. She 
was perfectly certain that that was not how white men ought to behave. And 
that extraordinary rambling speech that he had begun, with all those long 
words-almost, she thought bitterly, as though he were quoting poetry! It was 
how those beastly artists that you met sometimes in Paris used to talk. She had 
thought him a manly man till this evening. Then her mind went back to the 
morning’s adventure, and how he had faced the buffalo barehanded, and some 
of her anger evaporated. By the time they reached the Club gate she felt 
inclined to forgive him. Flory had by now plucked up courage to speak again. 
He stopped, and she stopped too, in a patch where the boughs let through 
some starlight -and he could see her face dimly. 

‘I say. I say, I do hope you’re not really angry about this?’ 

‘No, of course I’m not. I told you I wasn’t.’ 

‘I oughtn’t to have taken you there. Please forgive me. Do you know, I don’t 
think I’d tell the others where you’ve been. Perhaps it would be better to say 
you’ve just been out for a stroll, out in the garden- something like that. They 
might think it queer, a white girl going to a pwe. I don’t think I’d tell them.’ 

‘Oh, of course I won’t!’ she agreed with a warmness that surprised him. 
After that he knew that he was forgiven. But what it was that he was forgiven, 
he had not yet grasped. 

They went into the Club separately, by tacit consent. The expedition had 
been a failure, decidedly. There was a gala air about the Club lounge tonight. 
The entire European community were waiting to greet Elizabeth, and the 
butler and the six chakras, in their best starched white suits, were drawn up on 
either side of the door, smiling and salaaming. When the Europeans had 
finished their greetings the butler came forward with a vast garland of flowers 
that the servants had prepared for the ‘missiesahib’. Mr Macgregor made a 
very humorous speech of welcome, introducing everybody. He introduced 
Maxwell as ‘our local arboreal specialist’, Westfield as ‘the guardiih of law and 
order and-ah- terror of the local banditti’, and so on and so forth. There was 
much laughter. The sight of a pretty girl’s face had put everyone in such a good 
humour that they could even enjoy Mr Macgregor’s speech-which, to tell the 



j j g Burmese Days 

truth, he had spent most of the evening in preparing. 

At the first possible moment Ellis, with a sly air, took Flory and Westfield by 
the arm and drew them away into the card-room. He was in a much better 
mood than usual. He pinched Flory’s arm with his small, hard fingers, 
painfully but quite amiably. 

‘Well, my lad, everyone’s been looking for you. Where have you been all this 
time?’ 

‘Oh, only for a stroll.’ 

‘For a stroll! And who with?’ 

‘With Miss Lackersteen.’ 

‘I knew it! So you're the bloody fool who’s fallen into the trap, are you? You 
swallowed the bait before anyone else had time to look at it. I thought you were 
too old a bird for that, by God I did!’ 

‘What do you mean?’ 

‘Mean! Look at him pretending he doesn’t know what I mean! Why, I mean 
that Ma Lackersteen’ s marked you down for her beloved nephew-in-law, of 
course. That is, if you aren’t bloody careful. Eh, Westfield?’ 

‘Quite right, ol’ boy. Eligible young bachelor. Marriage halter and all that. 
They’ve got their eye on him.’ 

‘I don’t know where you’re getting this idea from. The girl’s hardly been 
here twenty-four hours.’ 

‘Long enough for you to take her up the garden path, anyway. You watch 
your step. Tom Lackersteen may be a drunken sot, but he’s not such a bloody 
fool that he wants a mece hanging round his neck for the rest of his life. And of 
course she knows which side her bread’s buttered. So you take care and don’t 
go putting your head into the noose.’ 

‘Damn it, you’ve no right to talk about people like that. After all, the girl’s 
only a kid-’ 

‘My dear old ass’-Ellis, almost affectionate now that he had anew subject 
for scandal, took Flory by the coat lapel-‘my dear, dear old ass, don’t you go 
filling yourself up with moonshine. You think that girl’s easy fruit: she’s not. 
These girls out from home are all the same. “Anything in trousers but nothing 
this side the altar”-that’s their motto, every one of them. Why do you think 
the girl’s come out here?’ 

‘Why? I don’t know. Because she wanted to, I suppose.’ 

‘My good fool! She come out to lay her claws into a husband, of course. As if 
it wasn’t well known! When a girl’s failed everywhere else she tries India, 
where every man’s pining for the sight of a white woman. The Indian 
marriage -market, they call it. Meat market it ought to be. Shiploads of ’em 
coming out every year like carcasses of frozen mutton, to be pawed over by 
nasty old bachelors like you. Cold storage. Juicy joints straight from the ice.’ 
‘You do say some repulsive things.’ 

‘Best, pasture-fed English meat,’ said Ellis with a pleased air. ‘Fresh 
consignments. Warranted prime condition.’ 

He went through a pantomime of-examining a joint of meat, with goatish 
sniffs. This joke was likely to last .Ellis a long time; his jokes usually did; and 



Burmese Days 139 

there was nothing that gave him quite so keen a pleasure as dragging a woman’s 
name through mud. 

Flory did not see much more of Elizabeth that evening. Everyone was in the 
lounge together, and there was the silly clattering chatter about nothing that 
there is on these occasions. Flory could never keep up that kind of conversation 
for long. But as for Elizabeth, the civilized atmosphere of the Club, with the 
white faces all round her and the friendly look of the illustrated papers and the 
‘Bonzo’ pictures, reassured her after that doubtful interlude at the pwe. 

When the Lackersteens left the Club at nine, it was not Flory but Mr 
Macgregor who walked home with them, ambling beside Elizabeth like some 
friendly saurian monster, among the faint crooked shadows of the gold mohur 
stems. The Prome anecdote, and many another, found a new home. Any 
newcomer to Kyauktada was apt to come in for rather a large share of Mr 
Macgregor’ s conversation, for the others looked on him as an unparalleled 
bore, and it was a tradition at the Club to interrupt his stories. But Elizabeth 
was by nature a good listener. Mr Macgregor thought he had seldom met so 
intelligent a girl. 

Flory stayed a little longer at the Club, drinking with the others. There was 
much smutty talk about Elizabeth. The quarrel about Dr Veras wami’s election 
had been shelved for the time being. Also, the notice that Ellis had put up on 
the previous evening had been taken down. Mr Macgregor had seen it during 
his morning visit to the Club, and in his fair-minded way he had at once 
insisted on its removal. So the notice had been suppressed; not, however, 
before it had achieved its object. 


9 


During the next fortnight a great deal happened. 

The feud between U Po Kyin and Dr Veras warni was now in full swing. The 
whole town was divided into two factions, with every native soul from the 
magistrates down to the bazaar sweepers enrolled on one side or the other, and 
all ready for perjury when the time came. But of the two parties, the doctor’s 
was much the smaller and less efficiently libellous. The editor of the Burmese 
Patriot had been put on trial for sedition and libel, bail being refused. His 
arrest had provoked a small riot in Rangoon, which was suppressed by the 
police with the death of only two rioters. In prison the editor went on hunger 
strike, but broke down after six hours. 

In Kyauktada, too, things had been happening. A dacoit named Nga Shwe 
O had escaped from the jail in mysterious circumstances. And there had been a 
whole crop of rumours about a projected native rising in the district. The 
rumours-they were very vague ones as yet-centred round a village named 



j^o Burmese Days 

Thongwa, not far from the camp where Maxwell was girdling teak. A weiksa , 
or magician, was said to have appeared from nowhere and to be prophesying 
the doom of the English power and distributing magic bullet-proof jackets. Mr 
Macgregor did not take the rumours very seriously, but he had asked for an 
extra force of Military Police. It was said that a company of Indian infantry 
with a British officer in command would be sent to Kyauktada shortly. 
Westfield, of course, had hurried to Thongwa at the first threat, or rather hope, 
of trouble. 

‘God, if they’d only break out and rebel properly for once!’ he said to Ellis 
before starting. ‘But it’ll be a bloody washout as usual. Always the same story 
with these rebellions-peter out almost before they’ve begun. Would you 
believe it, I’ve never fired my gun at a fellow yet, not even a dacoit. Eleven 
years of it, not counting the War, and never killed a man. Depressing.’ 

‘Oh, well,’ said Ellis, ‘if they won’t come up to the scratch you can always get 
hold of the ringleaders and give them a good bambooing on the Q.T. That’s 
better than coddling them up in our damned nursing homes of prisons.’ 

‘H’m, probably. Can’t do it though, nowadays. All these kid-glove laws-got 
to keep them, I suppose, if we’re fools enough to make ’em.’ 

‘Oh, rot the laws. Bambooing’s the only thing that makes any impression on 
the Burman. Have you seen them after they’ve been flogged? I have. Brought 
out of the jail on bullock carts, yelling, with the women plastering mashed 
bananas on their backsides. That’s something they do understand. If I had my 
way I’d give it ’em on the soles of the feet the same as the Turks do.’ 

‘Ah well. Let’s hope they’ll have the guts to show a bit of fight for once. 
Then we’ll call out the Military Police, rifles and all. Plug a few dozen of 
’em-that’ll clear the air.’ 

However, the hoped-for opportunity did not come. Westfield and the dozen 
constables he had taken with him to Thongwa-jolly round-faced Gurkha 
boys, pining to use their kukris on somebody-found the district depressingly 
peaceful. There seemed not the ghost of a rebellion anywhere; only the annual 
attempt, as regular as the monsoon, of the villagers to avoid paying the 
capitation tax. 

The weather was growing hotter and hotter. Elizabeth had had her first 
attack of prickly heat. Tennis at the Club had practically ceased; people would 
play one languid set and then fall into chairs and swallow pints of tepid lime- 
juice-tepid, because the ice came only twice weekly from Mandalay and 
melted within twenty-four hours of arriving. The Flame of the Forest was in 
full bloom. The Burmese women, to protect their children from the sun, 
streaked their faces with yellow cosmetic until they looked like little African 
witch-doctors. Flocks of green pigeons, and imperial pigeons as large as ducks, 
came to eat the berries of the big peepul trees along the bazaar road. 
Meanwhile, Flory had turned Ma Hla May out of his house. 

A nasty, dirty job! There was a sufficient pretext-she had stolen his gold 
cigarette-case and pawned it at the house of Li Yeik, the Chinese grocer and 
illicit pawnbroker in the bazaar-but still, it was only a pretext. Flory knew 
perfectly well, and Ma Hla May knew, and all the servants knew, that he was 



Burmese Days 141 

getting rid of her because of Elizabeth. Because of ‘the Ingaleikma with dyed 
hair’, as Ma Hla May called her. 

Ma Hla May made no violent scene at first. She stood sullenly listening 
while he wrote her a cheque for a hundred rupees-Li Yeik or the Indian chetty 
in the bazaar would cash cheques-and told her that she was dismissed. He was 
more ashamed than she; he could not look her in the face, and his voice went 
flat and guilty. When the bullock cart came for her belongings, he shut himself 
in the bedroom skulking till the scene should be over. 

Cartwheels grated on the drive, there was the sound of men shouting; then 
suddenly there was a fearful uproar of screams. Flory went outside. They were 
all struggling round the gate in the sunlight. Ma Hla May was clinging to the 
gatepost and Ko S’la was trying to bundle her out. She turned a face full of 
fury and despair towards Flory, screaming over and over, ‘ Thakin ! Thakin ! 
Thakin! Thakin! Thakin! 5 It hurt him to the heart that she should still call him 
thakin after he had dismissed her. 

‘What is it?’ he said. 

It appeared that there was a switch of false hair that Ma Hla May and Ma Yi 
both claimed. Flory gave the switch to Ma Yi and gave Ma Hla May two 
rupees to compensate her. Then the cart jolted away, with Ma Hla May sitting 
beside her two wicker baskets, straight-backed and sullen, and nursing a kitten 
on her knees. It was only two months since he had given her the kitten as a 
present. 

Ko S’la, who had long wished for Ma Hla May’s removal, was not altogether 
pleased now that it had happened. He was even less pleased when he saw his 
master going to church-or as he called it, to the ‘English pagoda’-for Flory 
was still in Kyauktada on the Sunday of the padre’s arrival, and he went to 
church with the others. There was a congregation of twelve, including Mr 
Francis, Mr Samuel and six native Christians, with Mrs Lackersteen playing 
‘Abide with Me’ on the tiny harmonium with one game pedal. It was the first 
time in ten years that Flory had been to church, except to funerals. Ko S’la’s 
notions of what went on in the ‘English pagoda’ were vague in the extreme; but 
he did know that church-going signified respectability-a quality which, like all 
bachelors’ servants, he hated in his bones. 

‘There is trouble coming,’ he said despondently to the other servants. ‘I 
have been watching him (he meant Flory) these ten days past. He has cut down 
his cigarettes to fifteen a day, he has stopped drinking gin before breakfast, he 
shaves himself every evening-though he thinks I do not know it, the fool. And 
he has ordered half a dozen new silk shirts! I had to stand over the dirzi calling 
him bahinchut to get them finished in time. Evil omens! I give him three 
months longer, and then good-bye to the peace in this house!’ 

‘What, is he going to get married?’ said Ba Pe. 

‘I am certain of it. When a white man begins going to the English pagoda, it 
is, as you might say, the beginning of the end.’ 

‘I have had many masters in my life,’ old Sammy said. ‘The worst was 
Colonel Wimpole sahib, who used to make his orderly hold me down over the 
table while he came running from behind and kicked me with very thick boots 



jq 2 Burmese Days 

for serving banana fritters too frequently. At other times, when he was drunk, 
he would fire his revolver through the roof of the servants’ quarters, just above 
our heads. But I would sooner serve ten years under Colonal Wimpole sahib 
than a week under a memsahib with her kit-kit. If our master marries I shall 
leave the same day.’ 

‘I shall not leave, for I have been his servant fifteen years. But I know what is 
in store for us when that woman comes. She will shout at us because of spots of 
dust on the furniture, and wake us up to bring cups of tea in the afternoon 
when we are asleep, and come poking into the cookhouse at all hours and 
complain over dirty saucepans and cockroaches in the flour bin. It is my belief 
that these women He awake at nights thinking of new ways to torment their 
servants.’ 

‘They keep a little red book,’ said Sammy, ‘in which they enter the bazaar- 
money, two annas for this, four annas for that, so that a man cannot earn a pice. 
They make more kit-kit over the price of an onion than a sahib over five 
rupees.’ 

‘Ah, do I not know it! She will be worse than Ma Hla May. Women!’ he 
added comprehensively, with a kind of sigh. 

The sigh was echoed by the others, even by Ma Pu and Ma Yi. Neither took 
Ko S’la’s remarks as a stricture upon her own sex, Englishwomen being 
considered a race apart, possibly not even human, and so dreadful that an 
Englishman’s marriage is usually the signal for the flight of every servant in his 
house, even those who have been with him for years. 


10 


But as a matter of fact, Ko S’la’s alarm was premature. After knowing 
Elizabeth for ten days, Flory was scarcely more intimate with her than on the 
day when he had first met her. 

As it happened, he had her almost to himself during these ten days, most of 
the Europeans being in the jungle. Flory himself had no right to be loitering in 
headquarters, for at this time of year the work of timber-extraction was in full 
swing, and in his absence everything went to pieces under the incompetent 
Eurasian overseer. But he had stayed- pretext, a touch of fever-while 
despairing letters came almost every day from the overseer, telling of disasters. 
One of the elephants was ill, the engine of the light railway that was used for 
carrying teak logs to the river had broken down, fifteen of the coolies had 
deserted. But Flory still lingered, unable to tear himself away from Kyauktada 
while Elizabeth was there, and continually seeking-never, as yet, to much 
purpose-to recapture that easy and delightful friendship of their first meeting. 

They met every day, morning and evening, it was true. Each evening they 



Burmese Days 143 

played a single of tennis at the Club-Mrs Lackersteen was too limp and Mr 
Lackersteen too liverish for tennis at this time of year-and afterwards they 
would sit in the lounge, all four together, playing bridge and talking. But 
though Flory spent hours in Elizabeth’s company, and often they were alone 
together, he was never for an instant at his ease with her. They talked- so long 
as they talked of trivialities-with the utmost freedom, yet they were distant, 
like strangers. He felt stiff in her presence, he could not forget his birthmark; 
his twice-scraped chin smarted, his body tortured him for whisky and 
tobacco-for he tried to cut down his drinking and smoking when he was with 
her After ten days they seemed no nearer the relationship he wanted. 

For somehow, he had never been able to talk to her as he longed to talk. To 
talk, simply to talk! It sounds so little, and how much it is 1 When you have 
existed to the brink of middle age in bitter loneliness, among people to whom 
your true opinion on every subject on earth is blasphemy, the need to talk is the 
greatest of all needs. Yet with Elizabeth serious talk seemed impossible. It was 
as though there had been a spell upon them that made all their conversation 
lapse into banality; gramophone records, dogs, tennis racquets-all that 
desolating Club-chatter. She seemed not to want to talk of anything but that. 
He had only to touch upon a subject of any conceivable interest to hear the 
evasion, the C I shan’t play’, coming into her voice. Her taste in books appalled 
him when he discovered it. Yet she was young, he reminded himself, and had 
she not drunk white wine and talked of Marcel Proust under the Paris plane 
trees? Later, no doubt, she would understand him and give him the 
companionship he needed. Perhaps it was only that he had not won her 
confidence yet. 

He was anything but tactful with her. Like all men who have lived much 
alone, he adjusted himself better to ideas than to people. And so, though all 
their talk was superficial, he began to irritate her sometimes; not by what he 
said but by what he implied. There was an uneasiness between them, ill- 
defined and yet often verging upon quarrels. When two people, one of whom 
has lived long in the country while the other is a newcomer, are thrown 
together, it is inevitable that the first should act as cicerone to the second. 
Elizabeth, during these days, was making her first acquaintance with Burma; it 
was Flory, naturally, who acted as her interpreter, explaining this, 
commenting upon that. And the things he said, or the way he said them, 
provoked in her a vague yet deep disagreement. For she perceived that Flory, 
when he spoke of the ‘natives’, spoke nearly always in favour of them. He was 
forever praising Burmese customs and the Burmese character; he even went so 
far as to contrast them favourably with the English. It disquieted her. After all, 
natives were natives-interesting, no doubt, but finally only a ‘subject’ people, 
an inferior people with black faces. His attitude was a little too tolerant. Nor 
had he grasped, yet, in what way he was antagonizing her. He so wanted her to 
love Burma as he loved it, not to look at it with the dull, incurious eyes of a 
memsahib! He had forgotten that most people can be at ease in a foreign 
country only when they are disparaging the inhabitants. 

He was too eager in' his attempts to interest her in things Oriental. He tried 



jr^j. Burmese Days 

to induce her, for instance, to learn Burmese, but it came to nothing. (Her aunt 
had explained to her that only missionary-women spoke Burmese; nice women 
found kitchen Urdu quite as much as they needed.) There were countless 
small disagreements like that. She was grasping, dimly, that his views were not 
the views an Englishman should hold. Much more clearly she grasped that he 
was asking her to be fond of the Burmese, even to admire them; to admire 
people with black faces, almost savages, whose appearance still made her 
shudder! 

The subject cropped up in a hundred ways. A knot of Burmans would pass 
them on the road. She, with her still fresh eyes, would gaze after them, half 
curious and half repelled; and she would say to Flory, as she would have said to 
anybody: 

‘How revoltingly ugly these people are, aren’t they?’ 

‘ Are they? 1 always think they’re rather charming-looking, the Burmese. 
They have such splendid bodies! Look at that fellow’s shoulders-like a bronze 
statue. Just think what sights you’d see m England if people went about half 
naked as they do here!’ 

‘But they have such hideous-shaped heads! Their skulls kind of slope up 
behind like a tom-cat’s. And then the way their foreheads slant back-it makes 
them look so wicked. I remember reading something in a magazine about the 
shape of people’s heads; it said that a person with a sloping forehead is a 
criminal type' 

‘Oh, come, that’s a bit sweeping! Round about half the people in the world 
have that kind of forehead.’ 

‘Oh, well, if you count coloured people, of course-!’ 

Or perhaps a string of women would pass, going to the well: heavy-set 
peasant-girls, copper-brown, erect under their water-pots with strong 
marelike buttocks protruded. The Burmese women repelled Elizabeth more 
than the men; she felt her kinship with them, and the hatefulness of being kin 
to creatures with black faces. 

‘Aren’t they too simply dreadful? So coarse-looking; like some kind of 
animal. Do you think anyone could think those women attractive?’ 

‘Their own men do, I believe.’ 

‘I suppose they would. But that black skin- 1 don’t know how anyone could 
bear it!’ 

‘But, you know, one gets used to the brown skin in time. In fact they say-I 
believe it’s true-that after a few years in these countries a brown skin seems 
more natural than a white one. And after all, it is more natural. Take the world 
as a whole, it’s an eccentricity to be white.’ 

‘You do have some funny ideas!’ 

And so on and so on. She felt all the while an unsatisfactoriness, an 
unsoundness in the things he said. It was particularly so on the evening when 
Flory allowed Mr Francis and Mr Samuel, the two derelict Eurasians, to 
entrap ham in conversation at the Club gate. 

Elizabeth, as it happened, had reached the Chib a few minutes before, Flory, 
and when she heard his voice at the gate she came round the tennis-screen to 



Burmese Days 14s 

meet him. The two Eurasians had sidled up to Flory and cornered him like a 
pair of dogs asking for a game. Francis was doing most of the talking. He was a 
meagre, excitable man, and as brown as a cigar-leaf, being the son of a South 
Indian woman; Samuel, whose mother had been a Karen, was pale yellow with 
dull red hair. Both were dressed in shabby drill suits, with vast topis beneath 
which their slender bodies looked like the stalks of toadstools. 

Elizabeth came down the path in time to hear fragments of an enormous and 
complicated autobiography. Talking to white men- talking, for choice, about 
himself-was the great joy of Francis’s life. When, at intervals of months, he 
found a European to listen to him, his life-history would pour out of him m 
unquenchable torrents. He was talking in a nasal, sing-song voice of incredible 
rapidity: 

‘Of my father, sir, I remember little, but he was very choleric man and many 
whackings with big bamboo stick all knobs on both for self, little half-brother 
and two mothers. Also how on occasion of bishop’s visit little half-brother and 
I dress in longyis and sent among the Burmese children to preserve incognito. 
My father never rose to be bishop, sir. Four converts only in twenty-eight 
years, and also too great fondness for Chinese rice-spirit very fiery noised 
abroad and spoil sales of my father’s booklet entitled The Scourge of Alcohol , 
published with the Rangoon Baptist Press, one rupee eight annas. My little 
half-brother die one hot weather, always coughing, coughing,’ etc., etc. 

The two Eurasians perceived the presence of Elizabeth. Both doffed their 
topis with bows and brilliant displays of teeth. It was probably several years 
since either of them had had a chance of talking to an Englishwoman. Francis 
burst out more effusively than ever. He was chattering in evident dread that he 
would be interrupted and the conversation cut short. 

‘Good evening to you, madam, good evening, good evening! Most honoured 
to make your acquaintance, madam! Very sweltering is the weather these days, 
is not? But seasonable for April. Not too much you are suffering from prickly 
heat, I trust? Pounded tamarind applied to the afflicted spot is infallible. 
Myself I suffer torments each night. Very prevalent disease among we 
Europeans.’ 

He pronounced it Europian, like Mr Chollop in Martin Chuzzlewit 
Elizabeth did not answer. She was looking at the Eurasians somewhat coldly. 
She had only a dim idea as to who or what they were, and it struck her as 
impertinent that they should speak to her. 

‘Thanks, I’ll remember about the tamarind,’ Flory said. 

‘Specific of renowned Chinese doctor, sir. Also, sir-madam, may I advise to 
you, wearing only Terai hat is not judicious in April, sir. For the natives all 
well, their skulls are adamant. But for us sunstroke ever menaces. Very deadly 
is the sun upon European skull. But is it that I detain you, madam?’ 

This was said in a disappointed tone. Elizabeth had, in fact, decided to snub 
the Eurasians. She did not know why Flory was allowing them to hold him in 
conversation. As she turned away to stroll back to the tennis court, she made a 
practice stroke in the air with her racquet, to remind Flory that the game was 
overdue. He saw it and followed her, rather reluctantly, for he did not like 



j^S Burmese Days 

snubbing the wretched Francis, bore though he was. 

‘I must be off,’ he said. ‘Good evening, Francis. Good evening, Samuel.’ 
‘Good evening, sir! Good evening, madam' Good evening, good evening!’ 
They receded with more hat flourishes. 

‘Who are those two?’ said Elizabeth as Flory came up with her. ‘Such 
extraordinary creatures! They were in church on Sunday. One of them looks 
almost white. Surely he isn’t an Englishman?’ 

‘No, they’re Eurasians -sons of white fathers and native mothers. Yellow- 
bellies is our friendly nickname for them.’ 

‘But what are they doing here? Where do they live? Do they do any work?’ 
‘They exist somehow or other in the bazaar. I believe Francis acts as clerk to 
an Indian money-lender, and Samuel to some of the pleaders. But they’d 
probably starve now and then if it weren’t for the charity of the natives.’ 

‘The natives! Do you mean to say-sort of cadge from the natives?’ 

‘I fancy so. It would be a very easy thing to do, if one cared to. The Burmese 
won’t let anyone starve.’ 

Elizabeth had never heard of anything of this kind before. The notion of 
men who were at least partly white living in poverty among ‘natives’ so 
shocked her that she stopped short on the path, and the game of tennis was 
postponed for a few minutes. 

‘But how awful! I mean, it’s such a bad example! It’s almost as bad as if one 
of us was like that. Couldn’t something be done for those two? Get up a 
subscription and send them away from here, or something?’ 

‘I’m afraid it wouldn’t help much. Wherever they went they’d be in the 
same position.’ 

‘But couldn’t they get some proper work to do?’ 

‘I doubt it. You see, Eurasians of that type-men who’ve been brought up in 
the bazaar and had no education-are done for from the start. The Europeans 
won’t touch them with a stick, and they’re cut off from entering the lower- 
grade Government services. There’s nothing they can do except cadge, unless 
they chuck all pretension to being Europeans. And really you can’t expect the 
poor devils to do that. Their drop of white blood is the sole asset they’ve got. 
Poor Francis, I never meet him but he begins telling me about his prickly heat. 
Natives, you see, are supposed not to suffer from prickly heat^-bosh, of course, 
but people believe it. It’s the same with sunstroke. They wear those huge topis 
to remind you that they’ve got European skulls. A kind of coat of arms. The 
bend sinister, you might say.’ 

This did not satisfy Elizabeth. She perceived that Flory, as usual, had a 
sneaking sympathy with the Eurasians. And the appearance of the two men 
had excited a pecular dislike in her. She had placed their type now. They 
looked like dagoes. Like those Mexicans and Italians and other dago people 
who play the mauvais rdle in so many a film. 

‘They looked awfully degenerate types, didn’t they? So thin and weedy and 
cringing; and they haven’t got at all honest faces. I suppose these Eurasians are 
very degenerate? I’ve heard that half-castes always inherit what’s worst in both 
races. Is that true?’ 



Burmese Days 147 

‘I don’t know that it’s true. Most Eurasians aren’t very good specimens, and 
it’s hard to see how they could be, with their upbringing. But our attitude 
towards them is rather beastly. We always talk of them as though they’d 
sprung up from the ground like mushrooms, with all their faults ready-made. 
But when all’s said and done, we’re responsible for their existence.’ 

‘Responsible for their existence?’ 

‘Well, they’ve all got fathers, you see.’ 

‘Oh ... Of course there’s that. . . . But after all, you aren’t responsible. I 
mean, only a very low kind of man would- er-have anything to do with native 
women, wouldn’t he?’ 

‘Oh, quite. But the fathers of both those two were clergymen m holy orders, 
I believe.’ 

He thought of Rosa McFee, the Eurasian girl he had seduced in Mandalay in 
1913. The way he used to sneak down to the house in a gharry with the shutters 
down; Rosa’s corkscrew curls; her withered old Burmese mother, giving him 
tea in the dark living-room with the fern pots and the wicker divan. And 
afterwards, when he had chucked Rosa, those dreadful, imploring letters on 
scented note-paper, which, in the end, he had ceased opening. 

Elizabeth reverted to the subject of Francis and Samuel after tennis. 

‘Those two Eurasians— does anyone here have anything to do with them? 
Invite them to their houses or anything?’ 

‘Good gracious, no. They’re complete outcasts. It’s not considered quite the 
thing to talk to them, in fact. Most of us say good morning to them-Ellis won’t 
even do that.’ 

‘Butjyott talked to them.’ 

‘Oh well, I break the rules occasionally. I meant that a pukka sahib probably 
wouldn’t be seen talking to them. But you see, I try-just sometimes, when I 
have the pluck— nor to be a pukka sahib.’ 

It was an unwise remark. She knew very well by this time the meaning of the 
phrase ‘pukka sahib’ and all it stood for. His remark had made the difference in 
their viewpoint a little clearer. The glance she gave him was almost hostile, and 
curiously hard; for her face could look hard sometimes, in spite of its youth and 
its flower-like skin. Those modish tortoise-shell spectacles gave her a very self- 
possessed look.. Spectacles are queerly expressive things-almost more 
expressive, indeed, than eyes. 

As yet he had neither understood her nor quite won her trust. Yet on the 
surface, at least, things had not gone ill between them. He had fretted her 
sometimes, but the good impression that he had made that first morning was 
not yet effaced. It was a curious fact that she scarcely noticed his birthmark at 
this time. And there were some subjects on which she was glad to hear him 
talk. Shooting, for example-she seemed to have an enthusiasm for shooting 
that was remarkable in a girl. Horses, also; but he was less knowledgeable 
about horses. He had arranged to take her out for a day’s shooting, later, when 
he could make preparations. Both of them were looking forward to the 
expedition with some eagerness, though not entirely for the same reason. 



II 


Flory and Elizabeth walked down the bazaar road. It was morning, but the air 
was so hot that to walk in it was like wading through a torrid sea. Strings of 
Burmans passed, coming from the bazaar, on scraping sandals, and knots of 
girls who hurried by four and five abreast, with short quick steps, chattering, 
their burnished hair gleaming. By the roadside, just before you got to the jail, 
the fragments of a stone pagoda were littered, cracked and overthrown by the 
strong roots of a peepul tree. The angry carved faces of demons looked up from 
the grass where they had fallen. Near by another peepul tree had twined itself 
round a palm, uprooting it and bending it backwards in a wrestle that had 
lasted a decade. 

They walked on and came to the jail, a vast square block, two hundred yards 
each way, with shiny concrete walls twenty feet high. A peacock, pet of the jail, 
was mincing pigeon-toed along the parapet. Six convicts came by, head down, 
dragging two heavy handcarts piled with earth, under the guard of Indian 
warders. They were long-sentence men, with heavy limbs, dressed in uniforms 
of coarse white cloth with small dunces’ caps perched on their shaven crowns. 
Their faces were greyish, cowed and curiously flattened. Their leg-irons 
jingled with a clear ring. A woman came past carrying a basket of fish on her 
head. Two crows were circling round it and making darts at it, and the woman 
was flapping one hand negligently to keep them away. 

There was a din of voices a little distance away. ‘The bazaar’s just round the 
corner,’ Flory said. ‘I think this is a market morning. It’s rather fun to watch.’ 

He had asked her to come down to the bazaar with him, telling her it would 
amuse her to see it. They rounded the bend. The bazaar was an enclosure like a 
very large cattle pen, with low stalls, mostly palm-thatched, round its edge. In 
the enclosure, a mob of people seethed, shouting and jostling; the confusion of 
their multi-coloured clothes was like a cascade of hundreds-and-thousands 
poured out of a jar. Beyond the bazaar one could see the huge, miry river. Tree 
branches and long streaks of scum raced down it at seven miles an hour. By the 
bank a fleet of sampans, with sharp beak-like bows on which eyes were painted, 
rocked at their mooring-poles. 

Flory and Elizabeth stood watching for a moment. Files of women passed 
balancing vegetable baskets on their heads, and pop-eyed children who stared 
at the Europeans. An old Chinese in dungarees faded to sky-blue hurried by, 
nursing some unrecognizable, bloody fragment of a pig’s intestines. 

‘Let’s go and poke around the stalls a bit, shall we?’ Flory said. 



Burmese Days 149 

‘Is it all right going in among the crowd? Everything’s so horribly dirty.’ 

‘Oh, it’s all right, they’ll make way for us. It’ll interest you.’ 

Elizabeth followed him doubtfully and even unwillingly. Why was it that he 
always brought her to these places? Why was he forever dragging her in among 
the ‘natives’, trying to get her to take an interest in them and watch their filthy, 
disgusting habits? It was all wrong, somehow. However, she followed, not 
feeling able to explain her reluctance. A wave of stifling air met them; there was 
a reek of garlic, dried fish, sweat, dust, anise, cloves and turmeric. The crowd 
surged round them, swarms of stocky peasants with cigar-brown faces, 
withered elders with their grey hair tied in a bun behind, young mothers 
carrying naked babies astride the hip. Flo was trodden on and yelped. Low, 
strong shoulders bumped against Elizabeth, as the peasants, too busy 
bargaining even to stare at a white woman, struggled round the stalls. 

‘Look!’ Flory was pointing with his stick to a stall, and saying something, 
but it was drowned by the yells of two women who were shaking their fists at 
each other over a basket of pineapples. Elizabeth had recoiled from the stench 
and din, but he did not notice it, and led her deeper into the crowd, pointing to 
this stall and that. The merchandise was foreign-looking, queer and poor. 
There were vast pomelos hanging on strings like green moons, red bananas, 
baskets of heliotrope-coloured prawns the size of lobsters, brittle dried fish 
tied in bundles, crimson chilis, ducks split open and cured like hams, green 
coco-nuts, the larvae of the rhinoceros beetle, sections of sugar-cane, dahs, 
lacquered sandals, check silk longyis , aphrodisiacs in the form of large, soap- 
like pills, glazed earthenware jars four feet high, Chinese sweetmeats made of 
garlic and sugar, green and white cigars, purple prinjals, persimmon-seed 
necklaces, chickens cheeping in wicker cages, brass Buddhas, heart-shaped 
betel leaves, bottles of Kruschen salts, switches of false hair, red clay cooking- 
pots, steel shoes for bullocks, papierm&che marionettes, strips of alligator hide 
with magical properties. Elizabeth’s head was beginning to swim. At the other 
end of the bazaar the sun gleamed through a priest’s umbrella, blood-red, as 
though through the ear of a giant. In front of a stall four Dravidian women 
were pounding turmeric with heavy stakes in a large wooden mortar. The hot- 
scented yellow powder flew up and tickled Elizabeth’s nostrils, making her 
sneeze. She felt that she could not endure this place a moment longer. She 
touched Flory ’s arm. 

‘This crowd-the heat is so dreadful. Do you think we could get into the 
shade?’ 

He turned round. To tell the truth, he had been too busy talking-mostly 
inaudibly, because of the din-to notice how the heat and stench were affecting 
her. 

‘Oh, I say, I am sorry. Let’s get out of it at once. I tell you what, we’ll go 
along to old Li Yeik’s shop-he’s the Chinese grocer-and he’ll get us a drink of 
something. It is rather stifling here.’ 

‘All these spices-they kind of take your breath away. And what is that 
dreadful smell like fish?’ 

‘Oh, only a kind of sauce they make out of prawns. They bury them and then 



j jo Burmese Days 

dig them up several weeks afterwards.’ 

‘How absolutely horrible!’ 

‘Quite wholesome, I believe. Come away from that!’ he added to Flo, who 
was nosing at a basket of small gudgeon-like fish with spines on their gills. 

Li Yeik’s shop faced the farther end of the bazaar. What Elizabeth had really 
wanted was to go straight back to the Club, but the European look of Li Yeik’s 
shop-front-it was piled with Lancashire-made cotton shirts and almost 
incredibly cheap German clocks-comforted her somewhat after the barbarity 
of the bazaar. They were about to climb the steps when a slim youth of twenty, 
damnably dressed in a longyi, blue cncker blazer and bright yellow shoes, with 
his hair parted and greased Tngaleik fashion’, detached himself from the 
crowd and came after them. He greeted Flory with a small awkward movement 
as though restraining himself from shikoing. 

‘What is it?’ Flory said. 

‘Letter, sir.’ He produced a grubby envelope. 

‘Would you excuse me?’ Flory said to Elizabeth, opening the letter. It was 
from Ma Hla May-or rather, it had been written for her and she had signed it 
with a cross-and it demanded fifty rupees, in a vaguely menacing manner. 

Flory pulled the youth aside. ‘You speak English? Tell Ma Hla May I’ll see 
about this later. And tell her that if she tries blackmailing me she won’t get 
another pice. Do you understand?’ 

‘Yes, sir.’ 

‘And now go away. Don’t follow me about, or there’ll be trouble.’ 

‘Yes, sir.’ 

‘A clerk wanting a job,’ Flory explained to Elizabeth as they went up the 
steps. ‘They come bothering one at all hours.’ And he reflected that the tone of 
the letter was curious, for he had not expected Ma Hla May to begin 
blackmailing him so soon; however, he had not time at the moment to wonder 
what it might mean. 

They went into the shop, which seemed dark after the outer air. Li Yeik, 
who was sitting smoking among his baskets of merchandise-there was no 
counter-hobbled eagerly forward when he saw who had come in. Flory was a 
friend of his. He was an old bent-kneed man dressed in blue, wearing a pigtail, 
with a chinless yellow face, all cheekbones, like a benevolent skull. He greeted 
Flory with nasal honking noises which he intended for Burmese, and at once 
hobbled to the back of the shop to call for refreshments. There was a cool 
sweetish smell of opium. Long strips of red paper with black lettering were 
pasted on the walls, and at one side there was a little altar with a portrait of two 
large, serene-looking people in embroidered robes, and two sticks of incense 
smouldering in front of it. Two Chinese women, one old, and a girl were 
sitting on a mat rolling cigarettes with maize straw and tobacco like chopped 
horsehair. They wore black silk trousers, and their feet, with bulging, swollen 
insteps, were crammed into red-heeled wooden slippers no bigger than a 
doll’s. A naked child was crawling slowly about the floor like a large yellow 
frog. 

‘Do look at those women’s feet!’ Elizabeth whispered as soon as Li Yeik’s 



Burmese Days 151 

back was turned. ‘Isn’t it simply dreadful! How do they get them like that? 
Surely it isn’t natural?’ 

‘No, they deform them artificially. It’s going out in China, I believe, but the 
people here are behind the times. Old Li Yeik’s pigtail is another anachronism. 
Those small feet are beautiful according to Chinese ideas.’ 

‘Beautiful! They’re so horrible I can hardly look at them. These people must 
be absolute savages!’ 

‘Oh no! They’re highly civilized; more civilized than we are, in my opinion. 
Beauty’s all a matter of taste. There are a people in this country called the 
Palaungs who admire long necks in women. The girls wear broad brass rings to 
stretch their necks, and they put on more and more of them until in the end 
they have necks like giraffes. It’s no queerer than bustles or crinolines.’ 

At this moment Li Yeik came back with two fat, round-faced Burmese girls, 
evidently sisters, giggling and carrying between them two chairs and a blue 
Chinese teapot holding half a gallon. The two girls were or had been Li Yeik’s 
concubines. The old man had produced a tin of chocolates and was prising off 
the lid and smiling in a fatherly way, exposing three long, tobacco-blackened 
teeth. Elizabeth sat down in a very uncomfortable frame of mind. She was 
perfectly certain that it could not be right to accept these people’s hospitality 
One of the Burmese girls had at once gone behind the chairs and begun fanning 
Flory and Elizabeth, while the other knelt at their feet and poured out cups of 
tea. Elizabeth felt very foolish with the girl fanning the back of her neck and 
the Chinaman grinning in front of her. Flory always seemed to get her into 
these uncomfortable situations. She took a chocolate from the tin Li Yeik 
offered her, but she could not bring herself to say ‘thank you’. 

‘Is this all right ?’ she whispered to Flory. 

‘All right?’ 

‘I mean, ought we to be sitting down in these people’s house? Isn’t it sort 
of- sort of infra dig ?’ 

‘It’s all right with a Chinaman. They’re a favoured race in this country. And 
they’re very democratic in their ideas. It’s best to treat them more or less as 
equals.’ 

‘This tea looks absolutely beastly. It’s quite green. You’d think they’d have 
the sense to put milk in it, wouldn’t you?’ 

‘It’s not bad. It’s a special kind of tea old Li Yeik gets from China. It has 
orange blossoms in it, I believe.’ 

‘Ugh! It tastes exactly like earth,’ she said, having tasted it. 

Li Yeik stood holding his pipe, which was two feet long with a metal bowl 
the size of an acom, and watching the Europeans to see whether they enjoyed 
his tea. The girl behmd the chair said something in Burmese, at which both of 
them burst out giggling again. The one kneeling on the floor looked up and 
gazed in a naive admiring way at Elizabeth. Then she turned to Flory and 
asked him whether the English lady wore stays. She pronounced it s’tays. 

‘Ch!’ said Li Yeik in a scandalized manner, stirring the girl with his toe to 
silence her. 

‘I should hardly care to ask her,’ Flory said. 



i $2 Burmese Days 

‘Oh, thakin, please do ask her! We are so anxious to know! 5 

There was an argument, and the girl behind the chair forgot fanning and 
joined in. Both of them, it appeared, had been pining all their lives to see a 
veritable pair of s’tays. They had heard so many tales about them; they were 
made of steel on the principle of a strait waistcoat, and they compressed a 
woman so tightly that she had no breasts, absolutely no breasts at all! The girls 
pressed their hands against their fat ribs in illustration. Would not Flory be so 
kind as to ask the English lady? There was a room behind the shop where she 
could come with them and undress. They had been so hoping to see a pair of 
s’tays. 

Then the conversation lapsed suddenly. Elizabeth was sitting stiffly, holding 
her tiny cup of tea, which she could not bring herself to taste again, and 
wearing a rather hard smile. A chill fell upon the Orientals; they realized that 
the English girl, who could not join in their conversation, was not at her ease. 
Her elegance and her foreign beauty, which had charmed them a moment 
earlier, began to awe them a little. Even Flory was conscious of the same 
feeling. There came one of those dreadful moments that one has with 
Orientals, when everyone avoids everyone else’s eyes, trying vainly to think of 
something to say. Then the naked child, which had been exploring some 
baskets at the back of the shop, crawled across to where the European sat. It 
examined their shoes and stockings with great curiosity, and then, looking up, 
saw their white faces and was seized with terror. It let out a desolate wail, and 
began making water on the floor. 

The old Chinese woman looked up, clicked her tongue and went on rolling 
cigarettes. No one else took the smallest notice. A pool began to form on the 
floor. Elizabeth was so horrified that she set her cup down hastily, and spilled 
the tea. She plucked at Flory’s arm. 

‘That child! Do look what it’s doing! Really, can’t someone-it’s too awful!’ 

For a moment everyone gazed in astonishment, and then they all grasped 
what was the matter. There was a flurry and a general clicking of tongues. No 
one had paid any attention to the child-the incident was too normal to be 
noticed-and now they all felt horribly ashamed. Everyone began putting the 
blame on the child. There were exclamations of ‘What a disgraceful child! 
What a disgusting child! 5 The old Chinese woman carried the child, still 
howling, to the door, and held it out over the step as though wringing out a 
bath sponge. And in the same moment, as it seemed, Flory and Elizabeth were 
outside the shop, and he was following her back to the road with Li Yeik and 
the others looking after them in dismay. 

‘If that’s what you call civilized people-!’ she was exclaiming. 

‘I’m sorry, 5 he said feebly. ‘I never expected-’ 

‘What absolutely disgusting people! 5 

She was bitterly angry. Her face had flushed a wonderful delicate pink, like a 
poppy bud opened a day too soon. It was the deepest colour of which it was 
capable. He followed her past the bazaar and back to the main road, and they 
had gone fifty yards before he ventured to speak again. 

Tm so sorry that this should have happened! Li Yeik is such a decent old 



Burmese Days 153 

chap. He’d hate to think that he’d offended you. Really it would have been 
better to stay a few minutes. Just to thank him for the tea.’ 

‘Thank him! After that! 3 

‘But honestly, you oughtn’t to mind that sort of thing. Not in this country. 
These people’s whole outlook is so different from ours. One has to adjust 
oneself. Suppose, for instance, you were back in the Middle Ages-’ 

‘I think I’d rather not discuss it any longer.’ 

It was the first time they had definitely quarrelled. He was too miserable 
even to ask himself how it was that he offended her. He did not realize that this 
constant striving to interest her in Oriental things struck her only as perverse, 
ungentlemanly, a deliberate seeking after the squalid and the ‘beastly’. He had 
not grasped even now with what eyes she saw the ‘natives’. He only knew that 
at each attempt to make her share his life, his thoughts, his sense of beauty, she 
shied away from him like a frightened horse. 

They walked up the road, he to the left of her and a little behind. He watched 
her averted cheek and the tiny gold hairs on her nape beneath the brim of her 
Terai hat. How he loved her, how he loved her! It was as though he had never 
truly loved her till this moment, when he walked behind her in disgrace, not 
even daring to show his disfigured face. He made to speak several times, and 
stopped himself. His voice was not quite ready, and he did not know what he 
could say that did not risk offending her somehow. At last he said, flatly, with a 
feeble pretence that nothing was the matter: 

‘It’s getting beastly hot, isn’t it?’ 

With the temperature at 90 degrees in the shade it was not a brilliant remark. 
To his surprise she seized on it with a kind of eagerness. She turned to face 
him, and she was smiling again. 

‘Isn’t it simply bakingV 

With that they were at peace. The silly, banal remark, bringing with it the 
reassuring atmosphere of Club-chatter, had soothed her like a charm. Flo, who 
had lagged behind, came puffing up to them dribbling saliva; in an instant they 
were talking, quite as usual, about dogs. They talked about dogs for the rest of 
the way home, almost without a pause. Dogs are an inexhaustible subject. 
Dogs, dogs! thought Flory as they climbed the hot hillside, with the mounting 
sun scorching their shoulders through their thin clothes, like the breath of 
fire-were they never to talk of anything except dogs? Or failing dogs, 
gramophone records and tennis racquets? And yet, when they kept to trash like 
this, how easily, how amicably they could talk! 

They passed the glittering white wall of the cemetery and came to the 
Lackersteens’ gate. Old mohur trees grew round it, and a clump of hollyhocks 
eight feet high, with round red flowers like blowsy girls’ faces. Flory took off 
his hat in the shade and fanned his face. 

‘Well, we’re back before the worst of the heat comes. I’m afraid our trip to 
the bazaar wasn’t altogether a success.’ 1 

‘Oh, not at all! I enjoyed it, really I did.’ 

‘No-I don’t know, something unfortunate always seems to happen. -Oh, by 
the way! You haven’t forgotten that We’re going out shooting the day after 



j 54 Burmese Days 

tomorrow? I hope that day will be all right for you?’ 

‘Yes, and my uncle’s going to lend me his gun. Such awful fun! You’ll have 
to teach me all about shooting. I am so looking forward to it.’ 

‘So am I. It’s a rotten time of year for shooting, but we’ll do our best. Good- 
bye for the present, then.’ 

‘Good-bye, Mr Flory.’ 

She still called him Mr Flory though he called her Elizabeth. They parted 
and went their ways, each thinking of the shooting trip, which, both of them 
felt, would in some way put things right between them. 


12 


In the sticky, sleepy heat of the living-room, almost dark because of the beaded 
curtain, U Po Kyin was marching slowly up and down, boasting. From time to 
time he would put a hand under his singlet and scratch his sweating breasts, 
huge as a woman’s with fat. Ma Kin was sitting on her mat, smoking slender 
white cigars. Through the open door of the bedroom one could see the corner 
of U Po Kyin’s huge square bed, with carved teak posts, like a catafalque, on 
which he had committed many and many a rape. 

Ma Kin was now hearing for the first time of the ‘other affair’ which 
underlay U Po Kyin’s attack on Dr Veraswami. Much as he despised her 
intelligence, U Po Kyin usually let Ma Kin into his secrets sooner or later. She 
was the only person in his immediate circle who was not afraid of him, and 
there was therefore a pleasure in impressing her. 

‘Well, Kin Kin,’ he said, ‘you see how it has all gone according to plan! 
Eighteen anonymous letters already, and every one of them a masterpiece. I 
would repeat some of them to you if I thought you were capable of 
appreciating them.’ 

‘But supposing the Europeans take no notieeftof your anonymous letters? 
.What then?’ 

‘Take no notice? Aha, no fear of that! I think I know something about the 
European mentality. .Let me tell you. Kin Kin, that if there is one thing I can 
do, it is to write an anonymous letter.’ 

This was true. U Po Kyin’s letters had already taken effect, and especially on 
their chief target, Mr Macgregor. 

Only two days earlier than this, Mr Macgregor had spent a very troubled 
evening in trying to make up his mind whether Dr Veraswami was or was not 
guilty of disloyalty to the Government. Of course, it was not a question of any 
overt act of disloyalty-that was quite irrelevant. The point was, was the doctor 
the kind of. man who would hold seditious opinions? In India you are not 
judged for what you do, but for what you are. The merest breath of suspicion 



Burmese Days 155 

against his loyalty can ruin an Oriental official. Mr Macgregor had too just a 
nature to condemn even an Oriental out of hand. He had puzzled as late as 
midnight over a whole pile of confidential papers, including the five 
anonymous letters he had received, besides two others that had been 
forwarded to him by Westfield, pinned together with a cactus thorn. 

It was not only the letters. Rumours about the doctor had been pouring in 
from every side. U Po Kyin fully grasped that to call the doctor a traitor was 
not enough in itself; it was necessary to attack his reputation from every 
possible angle. The doctor was charged not only with sedition, but also with 
extortion, rape, torture, performing illegal operations, performing operations 
while blind drunk, murder by poison, murder by sympathetic magic, eating 
beef, selling death certificates to murderers, wearing his shoes in the precincts 
of the pagoda and making homosexual attempts on the Military Police 
drummer boy. To hear what was said of him, anyone would have imagined the 
doctor a compound of Machiavelli, Sweeny Todd and the Marquis de Sade. 
Mr Macgregor had not paid much attention at first. He was too accustomed to 
this kind of thing. But with the last of the anonymous letters U Po Kyin had 
brought off a stroke that was brilliant even for him. 

It concerned the escape of Nga Shwe O, the dacoit, from Kyauktada jail. 
Nga Shwe O, who was in the middle of a well-earned seven years, had been 
preparing his escape for several months past, and as a start his friends outside 
had bribed one of the Indian warders. The warder received his hundred rupees 
in advance, applied for leave to visit the death-bed of a relative and spent 
several busy days in the Mandalay brothels. Time passed, and the day of the 
escape was postponed several times-the warder, meanwhile, growing more 
and more homesick for the brothels. Finally he decided to earn a further 
reward by betraying the plot to U Po Kyin. But U Po Kyin, as usual, saw his 
chance. He told the warder on dire penalties to hold his tongue, and then, on 
the very night of the escape, when it was too late to do anything, sent another 
anonymous letter to Mr Macgregor, warning him that an escape was being 
attempted. The letter added, needless to say, that Dr Veraswami, the 
superintendent of the jail, had been bribed for his connivance. 

In the morning there was a hullabaloo and a rushing to and fro of warders 
and policemen at the jail, for Nga Shwe O had escaped. (He was a long way 
down the river, in a sampan provided by U Po Kyin.) This time Mr Macgregor 
was taken aback. Whoever had written the letter must have been privy to the 
plot, and was probably telling the truth about the doctor’s connivance. It was a 
very serious matter. A jail superintendent who will take bribes to let a prisoner 
escape is capable of anything. And therefore-perhaps the logical sequence was 
not quite clear, but it was clear enough to Mr Macgregor-therefore the charge 
of sedition, which was the main charge against the doctor, became much more 
credible. 

U Po Kyin had attacked the other Europeans at the same time. Floty, who 
was the doctor’s friend and his chief source of prestige, had been scared easily 
enough into deserting him. With Westfield it was a little harder. Westfield, as a 
policeman, knew a great deal about U Po Kyin and might conceivably upset his 



j j<5 Burmese Days 

plans. Policemen and magistrates are natural enemies. But U Po Kyin had 
known how to turn even this fact to advantage. He had accused the doctor, 
anonymously of course, of being in league with the notorious scoundrel and 
bribe-taker U Po Kyin. That settled Westfield. As for Ellis, no anonymous 
letters were needed in his case; nothing could possibly make him think worse 
of the doctor than he did already. 

U Po Kyin had even sent one of his anonymous letters to Mrs Lackersteen, 
for he knew the power of European women. Dr Veraswami, the letter said, was 
inciting the natives to abduct and rape the European women-no details were 
given, nor were they needed. U Po Kyin had touched Mrs Lackersteen’s weak 
spot. To her mind the words ‘sedition’, ‘Nationalism,’, ‘rebellion’, ‘Home 
Rule’, conveyed one thing and one only, and that was a picture of herself being 
raped by a procession of jet-black coolies with rolling white eyeballs. It was a 
thought that kept her awake at night sometimes. Whatever good regard the 
Europeans might once have had for the doctor was crumbling rapidly. 

‘So you see,’ said U Po Kyin with a pleased air, ‘you see how I have 
undermined him. He is like a tree sawn through at the base. One tap and down 
he comes. In three weeks or less I shall deliver that tap.’ 

‘How?’ 

‘I am just coming to that. I think it is time for you to hear about it. You have 
no sense in these matters, but you know how to hold your tongue You have 
heard talk of this rebellion that is brewing near Thongwa village?’ 

‘Yes. They are very foolish, those villagers. What can they do with their dahs 
and spears against the Indian soldiers? They will be shot down like wild 
animals.’ 

‘Of course. If there is any fighting it will be a massacre. But they are only a 
pack of superstitious peasants. They have put their faith in these absurd 
bullet-proof jackets that are being distributed to them. I despise such 
ignorance.’ 

‘Poor men! Why do you not stop them, Ko Po Kyin? There is no need to 
arrest anybody. You have only to go to the village and tell them that you know 
their plans, and they will never dare to go on.’ 

‘AhfWell, I could stop them if I chose, of course. But then I do not choose. I 
have my reasons. You see. Kin Kin-you will please keep silent about this-this 
is, so to speak, my own rebellion. I arranged it myself.’ 

‘What!’ 

Ma Kin dropped her cigar. Her eyes had opened so wide that the pale blue 
white showed all round the pupil. She was horrified. She burst out: 

‘Ko Po Kyin, what are you saying? You do not mean it! You, raising a 
rebellion-it cannot be true!’ 

‘Certainly it is true. And a very good job we are making of it. That magician 
whom I brought from Rangoon is a clever fellow. He has toured all over India 
as a circus conjurer. The bullet-proof jackets were bought at Whiteaway & 
L&idlaw’s stores, one rupee eight annas each. They are costing me a pretty 
penny, I can tell you.’ 

‘But, Ko Po Kyin! A rebellion! The terrible fighting and shooting, and all 



Burmese Days 157 

the poor men who will be killed! Surely you have not gone mad? Are you not 
afraid of being shot yourself?’ 

U Po Kyin halted in his stride. He was astonished. ‘Good gracious, woman, 
what idea have you got hold of now? You do not suppose that I am rebelling 
against the Government? I— a Government servant of thirty years’ standing! 
Good heavens, no! I said that I had started the rebellion, not that I was taking 
part in it. It is these fools of villagers who are going to risk their skins, not I. No 
one dreams that I have anything to do with it, or ever will, except Ba Sein and 
one or two others.’ 

‘But you said it was you who were persuading them to rebel?’ 

‘Of course. I have accused Veraswami of raising a rebellion against the 
Government. Well, I must have a rebellion to show, must I not?’ 

‘Ah, I see. And when the rebellion breaks out, you are going to say that Dr 
Veraswami is to blame for it. Is that it?’ 

‘How slow you are! I should have thought even a fool would have seen that I 
am raising the rebellion merely in order to crush it. I am-what is that 
expression Mr Macgregor uses? Agent provocatmr-lu&x.m? you would not 
understand. I am agent provocateur . First I persuade these fools at Thongwato 
rebel, and then I arrest them as rebels. At the very moment when it is due to 
start, I shall pounce on the ringleaders and clap every one of them in jail After 
that, I dare say there may possibly be some fighting. A few men may be killed 
and a few more sent to the Andamans. But, meanwhile, I shall be first in the 
field. U Po Kyin, the man who quelled a most dangerous rising in the nick of 
time! I shall be the hero of the district.’ 

U Po Kyin, justly proud of his plan, began to pace up and down the room 
again with his hands behind his back, smiling. Ma Kin considered the plan in 
silence for some time. Finally she said: 

‘I still do not see why you are doing this, Ko Po Kyin. Where is it all leading? 
And what has it got to do with Dr Veraswami?’ 

‘I shall never teach you wisdom, Kin Kin! Did I not tell you at the beginning 
that Veraswami stands in my way? This rebellion is the very thing to get rid of 
him. Of course we shall never prove that he is responsible for it; but what does 
that matter? All the Europeans will take it for granted that he is mixed up in it 
somehow. That is how their minds work. He will be ruined for life. And his fall 
is my rise. The blacker I can paint him, the more glorious my own conduct will 
appear. Now do you understand?’ 

‘Yes, I do understand. And I think it is a base, evil plan. I wonder you are 
not ashamed to tell it me.’ 

‘Now, Kin Kin! Surely you are not going to start that nonsense over again?’ 
‘Ko Po Kyin, why is it that you are only happy when you are being wicked? 
Why is it that everything you do must bring evil to others? Think of that poor 
doctor who will be dismissed from his post, and those villagers who will be 
shot or flogged with bamboos or imprisoned for life. Is it necessary to do such 
things? What can you want with more money when you are rich already?’ 
‘Money! Who is talking about money? Some day, woman, you will realize 
that there are other things in the world besides money. Fame, for example. 



j $8 Burmese Days 

Greatness. Do you realize that the Governor of Burma will very probably pin 
an Order on my breast for my loyal action in this affair? Would not even you be 
proud of such an honour as that?’ 

Ma Kin shook her head, unimpressed. ‘When will you remember, Ko Po 
Kyin, that you are not going to live a thousand years? Consider what happens 
to those who have lived wickedly. There is such a thing, for instance, as being 
turned into a rat or a frog There is even hell. I remember what a priest said to 
me once about hell, something that he had translated from the Pali scriptures, 
and it was very terrible. He said, “Once in a thousand centuries two red-hot 
spears will meet m your heart, and you will say to yourself, ‘Another thousand 
centuries of my torment are ended, and there is as much to come as there has 
been before.’” Is it not very dreadful to think of such things, Ko Po Kyin?’ 

U Po Kyin laughed and gave a careless wave of his hand that meant 
‘pagodas’. 

‘Well, I hope you may still laugh when it comes to the end. But for myself, I 
should not care to look back upon such a life.’ 

She relighted her cigar with her thin shoulder turned disapprovingly on U 
Po Kyin while he took several more turns up and down the room. When he 
spoke, it was more seriously than before, and even with a touch of diffidence. 

‘You know. Kin Kin, there is another matter behind all this. Something that 
I have not told to you or to anyone else. Even Ba Sein does not know. But I 
believe I will tell it you now.’ 

‘I do not want to hear it, if it is more wickedness.’ 

‘No, no. You were asking just now what is my real object in this affair. You 
think, I suppose, that I am ruining Veraswami merely because I dislike him 
and his ideas about bribes as a nuisance. It is not only that. There is something 
else that is far more important, and it concerns you as well as me.’ 

‘What is it?’ 

‘Have you never felt in you. Kin Kin, a desire for higher things? Has it never 
struck you that after all our successes-all my successes, I should say— we are 
almost in the same position as when we started? I am worth, I dare say, two 
lakhs of rupees, and yet look at the style in which we live! Look at this room! 
Positively it is no better than that of a peasant. I am tired of eating with my 
fingers and associating only with Burmans-poor, inferior people-and living, 
as you might say, like a miserable Township Officer. Money is not enough; I 
should like to feel that I have risen in the world as well. Do you not wish 
sometimes for a way of life that is a little more— how shall I say— elevated?’ 

‘I do not know how we could want more than what we have already. When I 
was a girl in my village I never thought that I should live in such a house as 
this. Look at those English chairs-I have never sat in one of them in my life. 
But I am very proud to look at them and think that I own them.’ 

‘Ch! Why didi you ever leave that village of yours. Kin Kin? You are only fit 
to stand gossiping by the well with a stone water-pot on your head. But I am 
more ambitious , God be praised. And now I will tell you the real reason why I 
asm. intriguing against Veraswami. It is in my mind to do something that is 
really magmficent. Something noble, glorious! Something that is the very 



Burmese Days 159 

highest honour an Oriental can attain to. You know what I mean, of course?’ 

‘No. What do you mean?’ 

‘Come, now! The greatest achievement of my life! Surely you can guess?’ 

‘Ah, I know! You are going to buy a motor-car. But oh, Ko Po Kyin, please 
do not expect me to ride in it!’ 

U Po Kyin threw up his hands in disgust. ‘A motor-car! You have the mind 
of a bazaar peanut-seller! I could buy twenty motor-cars if I wanted them. And 
what use would a motor-car be in this place? No, it is something far grander 
than that.’ 

‘What, then?’ 

‘It is this. I happen to know that in a month’s time the Europeans are going 
to elect one native member to their Club. They do not want to do it, but they 
will have orders from the Commissioner, and they will obey. Naturally, they 
would elect Veraswami, who is the highest native official in the district. But I 
have disgraced Veraswami. And so-’ 

‘What?’ 

U Po Kyin did not answer for a moment. He looked at Ma Kin, and his vast 
yellow face, with its broad jaw and numberless teeth, was so softened that it 
was almost child-like. There might even have been tears in his tawny eyes. He 
said in a small, almost awed voice, as though the greatness of what he was 
saying overcame him: 

‘Do you not see, woman? Do you not see that if Veraswami is disgraced I 
shall be elected to the Club myself?’ 

The effect of it was crushing. There was not another word of argument on 
Ma Kin’s part. The magnificence of U Po Kyin’s project had struck her dumb. 

And not withour reason, for all the achievements of U Po Kyin’s life were as' 
nothing beside this. It is a real triumph-it would be doubly so in 
Kyauktada-for an official of the lower ranks to worm his way into the 
European Club. The European Club, that remote, mysterious temple, that 
holy of holies far harder of entry than Nirvana! Po Kyin, the naked gutter-boy 
of Mandalay, the thieving clerk and obscure official, would enter that sacred 
place, call Europeans ‘old chap’, drink whisky and soda and knock white balls 
to and fro on the green table! Ma Kin, the village woman, who had first seen 
the light through the chinks of a bamboo hut thatched with palm-leaves, would 
sit on a high chair with her feet imprisoned in silk stockings and high-heeled 
shoes (yes, she would actually wear shoes in that place!) talking to English 
ladies in Hindustani, about baby-linen! It was a prospect that would have 
dazzled anybody. 

For a long time Ma Kin remained silent, her lips parted, thinking of the 
European Club and the splendours that it mighr contain. For the first time in 
her life she surveyed U Po Kyin’s intrigues without disapproval. Perhaps it 
was a feat greater even than the storming of the Club to have planted a grain of 
ambition in Ma Kin’s gentle heart. 



13 


As Flory came through the gate of the hospital compound four ragged 
sweepers passed him, carrying some dead coolie, wrapped in sackcloth, to a 
foot-deep grave in the jungle. Flory crossed the brick-like earth of the yard 
between the hospital sheds. All down the wide verandas, on sheetless 
charpoys, rows of grey-faced men lay silent and moveless. Some filthy-looking 
curs, which were said to devour amputated limbs, dozed or snapped at their 
fleas among the piles of the buildings. The whole place wore a sluttish and 
decaying air Dr Veras wami struggled hard to keep it clean, but there was no 
coping with the dust and the bad water-supply, and the inertia of sweepers and 
half-trained Assistant Surgeons. 

Flory was told that the doctor was in the out-patients’ department. It was a 
plaster-walled room furnished only with a table and two chairs, and a dusty 
portrait of Queen Victoria, much awry. A procession of Burmans, peasants 
with gnarled muscles beneath their faded rags, were filing into the room and 
queueing up at the table The doctor was in shirt-sleeves and sweating 
profusely. He sprang to his feet with an exclamation of pleasure, and in his 
usual fussy haste thrust Flory into the vacant chair and produced a tin of 
cigarettes from the drawer of the table. 

‘What a delightful visit, Mr Flory! Please to make yourself comfortable-that 
iss, if one can possibly be comfortable in such a place ass this, ha, ha! 
Afterwards, at my house, we will talk with beer and amenities. Kindly excuse 
me while I attend to the populace.’ 

Flory sat down, and the hot sweat immediately burst out and drenched his 
shirt. The heat of the room was stifling. The peasants steamed garlic from all 
their pores. As each man came to the table the doctor would bounce from his 
chair, prod the patient in the back, lay a black ear to his chest, fire off several 
questions in villainous Burmese, then bounce back to the table and scribble a 
prescription. The patients took the prescriptions across the yard to the 
Compounder, who gave them bottles filled with water and various vegetable 
dyes. The Compounder supported himself largely by the sale of drugs, for the 
Government paid, him only twenty-five rupees a month. However, the doctor 
knew nothing of this. 

On most mornings the doctor had not time to attend to the out-patients 
himself, and left them to one of the Assistant Surgeons. The Assistant 
Surgeon’s methods of diagnosis were brief. He would simply ask each patient, 
'Where is your pain? Head, back or belly?’ and at the reply hand out a 



Burmese Days 161 

prescription from one of three piles that he had prepared beforehand. The 
patients much preferred this method to the doctor’s. The doctor had a way of 
asking them whether they had suffered from venereal diseases -an 
ungentlemanly, pointless question-and sometimes he horrified them still 
more by suggesting operations. ‘Belly-cutting’ was their phrase for it. The 
majority of them would have died a dozen times over rather than submit to 
‘belly-cutting’. 

As the last patient disappeared the doctor sank into his chair, fanning his 
face with the prescription-pad. 

‘Ach, this heat! Some mornings I think that never will I get the smell of 
garlic out of my nose! It iss amazing to me how their very blood becomes 
impregnated with it. Are you not suffocated, Mr Flory? You English have the 
sense of smell almost too highly developed. What torments you must all suffer 
in our filthy East!’ 

‘Abandon your noses, all ye who enter here, what? They might write that up 
over the Suez Canal. You seem busy this morning?’ 

‘Ass ever. Ah but, my friend, how discouraging iss the work of a doctor in 
this country! These villagers-dirty, ignorant savages! Even to get them to 
come to hospital iss all we can do, and they will die of gangrene or carry a 
tumour ass large ass a melon for ten years rather than face the knife. And such 
medicines ass their own so-called doctors give to them! Herbs gathered under 
the new moon, tigers’ whiskers, rhinoceros horn, urine, menstrual blood! How 
men can drink such compounds iss disgusting.’ 

‘Rather picturesque, all the same. You ought to compile a Burmese 
pharmacopoeia, doctor. It would be almost as good as Culpeper.’ 

‘Barbarous cattle, barbarous cattle,’ said the doctor, beginning to struggle 
into his white coat. ‘Shall we go back to my house? There iss beer and I trust a 
few fragments of ice left. I have an operation at ten, strangulated hernia, very 
urgent. Till then I am free.’ 

‘Yes. As a matter of fact there’s something I rather wanted to talk to you 
about.’ 

They recrossed the yard and climbed the steps of the doctor’s veranda. The 
doctor, having felt in the ice-chest and found that the ice was all melted to 
tepid water, opened a bottle of beer and called fussily to the servants to set 
some more bottles swinging in a cradle of wet straw. Flory was standing 
looking over the veranda rail, with his hat still on. The fact was that he had 
come here to utter an apology. He had been avoiding the doctor for nearly a 
fortnight- since the day, in fact, when he had set his name to the insulting 
notice at the Club. But the apology had got to be uttered. U Po Kyin was a very 
good judge of men, but he had erred in supposing that two anonymous letters 
were enough to scare Flory permanently away from his friend. 

‘Look here, doctor, you know what I wanted to say?’ 

‘I? No.’ 

‘Yes, you do. It’s about that beastly trick I played on you the other week. 
When Ellis put that notice on the Club board and I signed my name to it. You 
must have heard about it. I want to try and explain-’ 



j 1 6 2 Burmese Days 

‘No, no, my friend, no, no!’ The doctor was so distressed that he sprang 
across the veranda and seized Flory by the arm. ‘You shall not explain! Please 
never mention it! I understand perfectly-but most perfectly.’ 

‘No, you don’t understand. You couldn’t. You don’t realize just what kind of 
pressure is put on one to make one do things like that. There was nothing to 
make me sign the notice. Nothing could have happened if I’d refused. There’s 
no law telling us to be beastly to Orientals -quite the contrary. But-it’s just 
that one daren’t be loyal to an Oriental when it means going against the others. 
It doesn’t do. If I’d stuck out against signing the notice I’d have been in 
disgrace at the Club for a week or two. So I funked it, as usual.’ 

‘Please, Mr Flory, please! Possitively you will make me uncomfortable if 
you continue. Ass though I could not make all allowances for your position!’ 
‘Our motto, you know is, “In India, do as the English do”.’ 

‘Of course, of course. And a most noble motto. “Hanging together”, ass you 
call it. It iss the secret of your superiority to we Orientals.’ 

‘Well, it’s never much use saying one’s sorry. But what I did come here to 
say was that it shan’t happen again. In fact-’ 

‘Now, now, Mr Flory, you will oblige me by saying no more upon this 
subject. It iss all over and forgotten. Please to drink up your beer before it 
becomes ass hot ass tea. Also, I have a thing to tell you. You have not asked for 
my news yet/ 

‘Ah, your news. What is your news, by the way? How’s everything been 
going all this time? How’s Ma Britannia? Still moribund?’ 

‘Aha, very low, very low! But not so low ass I. I am in deep waters, my 
friend.’ 

‘What? U Po Kyin again? Is he still libelling you?’ 

‘If he iss libelling me! This time it iss-well, it iss something diabolical. My 
friend, you have heard of this rebellion that is supposed to be on the point of 
breaking out in the district?’ 

‘I’ve heard a lot of talk. Westfield’s been out bent on slaughter, but I hear he 
can’t find any rebels. Only the usual village Hampdens who won’t pay their 
taxes.’ 

‘Ah yes. Wretched fools! Do you know how much iss the tax that most of 
them have refused to pay? Five rupees! They will get tired of it and pay up 
presently. We have this trouble every year. But ass for the rebellion-the so- 
called rebellion, Mr Flory-I wish you to know that there iss more in it than 
meets the eye.’ 

‘Oh? What?’ 

To Flory’s surprise the doctor made such a violent gesture of anger that he 
spilled most of his beer. He put his glass down on the veranda rail and burst 
out: 

‘It iss U Po Kyin again! That unutterable scoundrel! That crocodile 
deprived of natural feeling! That-that-’ 

‘Go on. “That obscene trunk of humors, that swol’n parcel of dropsies, that 
bolting-hutch of beastlines$”-go on. What’s he been up to now?’ 

'* ‘A villainy unparalleled’-and here the doctor outlined the plot for a sham 



Burmese Days 16 3 

rebellion, very much as U Po Kyin had explained it to Ma Kin. The only detail 
not known to him was U Po Kyin’s intention of getting himself elected to the 
European Club. The doctor’s face could not accurately be said to flush, but it 
grew several shades blacker in his anger. Flory was so astonished that he 
remained standing up. 

‘The cunning old devil! Who’d have thought he had it in him? But how did 
you manage to find all this out?’ 

‘Ah, I have a few friends left. But now do you see, my friend, what ruin he iss 
preparing for me? Already he hass calumniated me right and left. When this 
absurd rebellion breaks out, he will do everything in his power to connect my 
name with it. And I tell you that the slightest suspicion of my loyalty could be 
ruin for me, ruin! If it were ever breathed that I were even a sympathizer with 
this rebellion, there iss an end of me.’ 

‘But, damn it, this is ridiculous f Surely you can defend yourself somehow ? 5 

‘How can I defend myself when I can prove nothing? I know that all this iss 
true, but what use iss that? If I demand a public inquiry, for every witness I 
produce U Po Kyin would produce fifty. You do not realize the influence of 
that man in the district. No one dare speak against him.’ 

‘But why need you prove anything? Why not go to old Macgregor and tell 
him about it? He’s a very fair-minded old chap in his way. He’d hear you 
out.’ 

‘Useless, useless. You have not the mind of an intriguer, Mr Flory. Qui 
s’excuse, s’accuse, iss it not? It does not pay to cry that there iss a conspiracy 
against one.’ 

‘Well, what are you going to do, then?’ 

‘There iss nothing I can do. Simply I must wait and hope that my prestige 
will carry me through. In affairs like this, where a native official’s reputation iss 
at stake, there iss no question of proof, of evidence. All depends upon one’s 
standing with the Europeans. If my standing iss good, they will not believe it 
of me; if bad, they will believe it. Prestige iss all.’ 

They were silent for a moment. Flory understood well enough that ‘prestige 
iss all’. He was used to these nebulous conflicts, in which suspicion counts for 
more than proof, and reputation for more than a thousand witnesses. A 
thought came into his head, an uncomfortable, chilling thought which would 
never have occurred to him three weeks earlier. It was one of those moments 
when one sees quite clearly what is one’s duty, and, with all the will in the 
world to shirk it, feels certain that one must carry it out. He said: 

‘Suppose, for instance, you were elected to the Club? Would that do your 
prestige any good?’ 

‘If I were elected to the Club! Ah, indeed, yes! The Club! It iss a fortress 
impregnable. Once there, and no one would listen to these tales about me any 
more than if it were about you, or Mr Macgregor, or any other European 
gentleman. But what hope have I that they will elect me after their minds have 
been poisoned against me?’ 

‘Well now, look here, doctor, I tell you what. I’ll propose your name at the 
next general meeting. I know the question’s got to come up then, and if 



164 Burmese Days 

someone comes forward with the name of a candidate, I dare say no one except 
Ellis will blackball him. And in the meantime-’ 

‘Ah, my friend, my dear friend!’ The doctor’s emotion caused him almost to 
choke. He seized Flory by the hand. ‘Ah, my friend, that iss noble! Truly it iss 
noble! But it iss too much. I fear that you will be m trouble with your European 
friends again Mr Ellis, for example-would he tolerate it that you propose my 
name?’ 

‘Oh, bother Ellis. But you must understand that I can’t promise to get you 
elected. It depends on what Macgregor says and what mood the others are in. 
It may all come to nothing.’ 

The doctor was still holding Flory’ s hand between his own, which were 
plump and damp. The tears had actually started into his eyes, and these, 
magnified by his spectacles, beamed upon Flory like the liquid eyes of a dog. 

‘Ah, my friend! If I should but be elected! What an end to all my troubles! 
But, my friend, ass I said before, do not be too rash in this matter. Beware of U 
Po Kyin! By now he will have numbered you among hiss enemies. And even 
for you hiss enmity can be a danger.’ 

‘Oh, good Lord, he can’t touch me. He’s done nothing so far-only a few silly 
anonymous letters.’ 

‘I would not be too sure. He hass subtle ways to strike. And for sure he will 
raise heaven and earth to keep me from being elected to the Club. If you have a 
weak spot, guard it, my friend. He will find it out. He strikes always at the 
weakest spot.’ 

‘Like the crocodile,’ Flory suggested. 

‘Like the crocodile,’ agreed the doctor gravely. ‘Ah but, my friend, how 
gratifying to me if I should become a member of your European Club! What an 
honour, to be the associate of European gentlemen! But there iss one other 
matter, Mr Flory, that I did not care to mention before. It iss - 1 hope this iss 
clearly understood-that I have no intention of using the Club in any way. 
Membership is all I desire. Even if I were elected, I should not, of course, ever 
presume to come to the Club.’ 

‘Not come to the Club?’ 

‘No, no! Heaven forbid that I should force my society upon the European 
gentlemen! Simply I should pay my subscriptions. That, for me, iss a privilege 
high enough. You understand that, I trust?’ 

‘Perfectly, doctor, perfectly.’ 

Flory could not help laughing as he walked up the hill. He was definitely 
committed now to proposing the doctor’s election. And there would be such a 
row when the others heard of it— oh, such a devil of a row! But the astonishing 
thing was that it only made him laugh. The prospect that would have appalled 
him a month back now almost exhilarated him. 

Why? And why had he given his promise at all? It was a small thing, a small 
risk to take-nothing heroic about it-and yet it was unlike him. Why, after all 
these years-the circumspect, pukka sahib-like years-break all the rules so 
suddenly? 

He knew why. It was because Elizabeth, by coming into his life, had so 



Burmese Days 16$ 

changed it and renewed it that all the dirty, miserable years might never have 
passed. Her presence had changed the whole orbit of his mind. She had 
brought back to him the air of England-dear England, where thought is free 
and one is not condemned forever to dance the danse du pukka sahib for the 
edification of the lower races. Where is the life that late I led? he thought. Just 
by existing she had made it possible for him, she had even made it natural to 
him, to act decently. 

Where is the life that late I led? he thought again as he came through the 
garden gate. He was happy, happy. For he had perceived that the pious ones 
are right when they say that there is salvation and life can begin anew. He came 
up the path, and it seemed to him that his house, his flowers, his servants, all 
the life that so short a time ago had been drenched in ennui and homesickness, 
were somehow made new, significant, beautiful inexhaustibly. What fun it 
could all be, if only you had someone to share it with you! How you could love 
this country, if only you were not alone! Nero was out on the path, braving the 
sun for some grains of paddy that the mail had dropped, taking food to his 
goats. Flo made a dash at him, panting, and Nero sprang into the air with a 
flurry and lighted on Florv’s shoulder. Flory walked into the house with the 
little red cock in his arms, stroking his silky ruff and the smooth, diamond- 
shaped feathers of his back. 

He had not set foot on the veranda before he knew that Ma Hla May was in 
the house. It did not need Ko S’la to come hurrying from within with a face of 
evil tidings. Flory had smelled her scent of sandalwood, garlic, coco-nut oil 
and the jasmine in her hair. He dropped Nero over the veranda rail. 

‘ The woman has come back, 5 said Ko S’la. 

Flory had turned very pale. When he turned pale the birthmark made him 
hideously ugly. A pang like a blade of ice had gone through his entrails. Ma 
Hla May had appeared in the doorway of the bedroom. She stood with her face 
downcast, looking at him from beneath lowered brows. 

‘ Thakin / she said in a low voice, half sullen, half urgent. 

‘Go away!’ said Flory angrily to Ko S’la, venting his fear and anger upon 
him. 

c Thakin / she said, ‘come into the bedroom here. I have a thing to say to you.’ 

He followed her into the bedroom. In a week-it was only a week-her 
appearance had degenerated extraordinarily. Her hair looked greasy. All her 
lockets were gone, and she was wearing a Manchester longyi of flowered 
cotton, costing two rupees eight annas. She had coated her face so thick with 
powder that it was like a clown’s mask, and at the roots of her hair, where the 
powder ended, there was a ribbon of natural-coloured brown skin. She looked 
a drab. Flory would not face her, but stood looking sullenly through the open 
doorway to the veranda. 

‘What do you mean by coming back like this? Why did you not go home to 
your village?’ 

‘I am staying in Kyauktada, at my cousin’s house. How can I go back to my 
village after what has happened?’ 

‘And what do you mean by sending men to demand money from me? How 



166 Burmese Days 

can you want more money already, when I gave you a hundred rupees only a 
week ago?’ 

‘How can I go back?’ she repeated, ignoring what he had said. Her voice rose 
so sharply that he turned round She was standing very upright, sullen, with 
her black brows drawn together and her lips pouted. 

‘Why cannot you go back?’ 

‘After that! After what you have done to me!’ 

Suddenly she burst into a furious tirade. Her voice had risen to the 
hysterical graceless scream of the bazaar women when they quarrel. 

‘How can I go back, to be jeered at and pointed at by those low, stupid 
peasants whom I despise? I who have been a bo-kadaw, a white man’s wife, to 
go home to my father’s house, and shake the paddy basket with old hags and 
women who are too ugly to find husbands 5 Ah, what shame, what shame! Two 
years I was your wife, you loved me and cared for me, and then without 
warning, without reason, you drove me from your door like a dog. And I must 
go back to my village, with no money, with all my jewels and silk longyis gone, 
and the people will point and say, “There is Ma Hla May who thought herself 
cleverer than the rest of us. And behold! her white man has treated her as they 
always do.” I am ruined, ruined! What man will marry me after I have lived 
two years in your house? You have taken my youth from me. Ah, what shame, 
what shame!’ 

He could not look at her; he stood helpless, pale, hang-dog. Every word she 
said was justified, and how tell her that he could do no other than he had done? 
How tell her that it would have been an outrage, a sin, to continue as her lover? 
He almost cringed from her, and the birthmark stood on his yellow face like a 
splash of ink. He said flatly, turning instinctively to money-for money had 
never failed with Ma Hla May: 

‘I will give you money. You shall have the fifty rupees you asked me 
for -more later. I have no more till next month.’ 

This was true. The hundred rupees he had given her, and what he had spent 
on clothes, had taken most of his ready money. To his dismay she burst into a 
loud wail. Her white mask puckered up and the tears sprang quickly out and 
coursed down her cheeks. Before he could stop her she had fallen on her knees 
in front of him, and she was bowing, touching the floor with her forehead in the 
‘full’ shiko of utter abasement, 

‘Get up, get up!’ he exclaimed. The shameful, abject shiko, neck bent, body 
doubled up as though inviting a blow, always horrified him. ‘I can’t bear that. 
Get up this instant.’ 

She wailed again, and made an attempt to clasp his ankles. He stepped 
backwards hurriedly. 

‘Get up, now, and stop that dreadful noise, I don’t know what you are crying 
about.’ 

She did not get up, but only rose to her knees and wailed at him anew. ‘Why 
do you offer me money? Do you think it is only for money that I have come 
back? Do you think that when you have driven me from your door like a dog it 
is only because of money that I care?’ 



Burmese Days 167 

‘Get up, 5 he repeated. He had moved several paces away, lest she should 
seize him. ‘What do you want if it is not money? 5 

‘Why do you hate me? 5 she wailed. ‘What harm have I done you? I stole your 
cigarette-case, but you were not angry at that. You are going to marry this 
white woman, I know it, everyone knows it. But what does it matter, why must 
you turn me away? Why do you hate me?’ 

‘I don’t hate you. I can’t explain. Get up, please get up.’ 

She was weeping quite shamelessly now. After all, she was hardly more than 
a child. She looked at him through her tears, anxiously, studying him for a sign 
of mercy. Then, a dreadful thing, she stretched herself at full length, flat on her 
face. 

‘Get up, get up!’ he cried out in English. ‘I can’t bear that-it’s too 
abominable! 5 

She did not get up, but crept, wormlike, right across the floor to his feet. Her 
body made a broad ribbon on the dusty floor. She lay prostrate in front of him, 
face hidden, arms extended, as though before a god’s altar. 

‘Master, master, 5 she whimpered, ‘will you not forgive me? This once, only 
this once! Take Ma Hla May back. I will be your slave, lower than your slave. 
Anything sooner than turn me away.’ 

She had wound her arms round his ankles, actually was kissing his toes. He 
stood looking down at her with his hands in his pockets, helpless. Flo came 
ambling into the room, walked to where Ma Hla May lay and sniffed at her 
longyi. She wagged her tail vaguely, recognizing the smell. Flory could not 
endure it. He bent down and took Ma Hla May by the shoulders, lifting her to 
her knees. 

‘Stand up, now, 5 he said. ‘It hurts me to see you like this. I will do what I can 
for you. What is the use of crying? 5 

Instantly she cried out in renewed hope: ‘Then you will take me back? Oh, 
master, take Ma Hla May back! No one need ever know. I will stay here when 
that white woman comes, she will think I am one of the servants’ wives. Will 
you not take me back?’ 

‘I cannot. It’s impossible,’ he said, turning away again. 

She heard finality in his tone, and uttered a harsh, ugly cry. She bent 
forward again in a shiko, beating her forehead against the floor. It was 
dreadful. And what was more dreadful than all, what hurt in his breast, was the 
utter gracelessness, the lowness of the emotion beneath those entreaties. For in 
all this there was not a spark of love for him. If she wept and grovelled it was 
only for the position she had once had as his mistress, the idle life, the rich 
clothes and dominion over servants. There was something pitiful beyond 
words in that. Had she loved him he could have driven her from his door with 
far less compunction. No sorrows are so bitter as those that are without a trace 
of nobility. He bent down and picked her up in his arms. 

‘Listen, Ma Hla May,’ he said; T do.not hate you, you have done me no evil. 
It is I who have wronged you. But there is no help for it now. You must go 
home,- and later I will send you money. If you like you shall start a shop in the 
bazaar. You are young. This will not matter to you when you have money and 



i68 


Burmese Days 


can find yourself a husband.' 

e I am ruined!' she wailed again. ‘I shall kill myself. I shall jump off the jetty 
into the river. How can I live after this disgrace?’ 

He was holding her in his arms, almost caressing her. She was clinging close 
to him, her face hidden against his shirt, her body shaking with sobs. The scent 
of sandalwood floated into his nostrils. Perhaps even now she thought that 
with her arms around him and her body against his she could renew her power 
over him. He disentangled himself gently, and then, seeing that she did not fall 
on her knees again, stood apart from her. 

‘That is enough. You must go now. And look, I will give you the fifty rupees 
I promised you.’ 

He dragged his tin uniform case from under the bed and took out five ten- 
rupee notes. She stowed them silently in the bosom of her ingyi. Her tears had 
ceased flowing quite suddenly. Without speaking she went into the bathroom 
for a moment, and came out with her face washed to its natural brown, and her 
hair and dress rearranged. She looked sullen, but not hysterical any longer. 
‘For the last time, thakin * you will not take me back? That is your last word?’ 
‘Yes. I cannot help it.’ 

‘Then I am going, thakin.’’ 

‘Very well. God go with you.’ 

Leaning against the wooden pillar of the veranda, he watched her walk down 
the path in the strong sunlight. She walked very upright, with bitter offence in 
the carriage of her back and head. It was true what she had said, he had robbed 
her of her youth. His knees were trembling uncontrollably. Ko S’la came 
behind him, silent-footed. He gave a little deprecating cough to attract Flory’s 
attention. 

‘What’s the matter now?’ 

‘The holy one’s breakfast is getting cold.’ 

‘I don’t want any breakfast. Get me something to drink-gin.’ 

Where is the life that late I led? 



Like long curved needles threading through embroidery, the two canoes that 
carried Flory and Elizabeth threaded their way up the creek that led inland 
from the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy. It was the day of the shooting trip-a 
short afternoon trip, for they could not stay a night in the jungle together. 
They were to shoot for a couple of hours in the comparative cool of the 
evening, and be back at Kyauktada in time for dinner. 

The canoes, each hollowed out of a single tree-trunk, glided swiftly, hardly 
rippling the dark brown water. Water hyacinth with profuse spongy foliage 



Burmese Days 169 

and blue flowers had choked the stream so that the channel was only a winding 
ribbon four feet wide. The light filtered, greenish, through interlacing boughs. 
Sometimes one could hear parrots scream overhead, but no wild creatures 
showed themselves, except once a snake that swam hurriedly away and 
disappeared among the water hyacinth. 

‘How long before we get to the village?’ Elizabeth called back to Flory, He 
was in a larger canoe behind, together with Flo and Ko S’la, paddled by a 
wrinkly old woman dressed in rags. 

‘How far, grandmama?’ Flory asked the canoe-woman. 

The old woman took her cigar out of her mouth and rested her paddle on her 
knees to think. ‘The distance a man can shout,’ she said after reflection. 

‘About half a mile,’ Flory translated. 

They had come two miles. Elizabeth’s back was aching. The canoes were 
liable to upset at a careless moment, and you had to sit bolt upright on the 
narrow backless seat, keeping your feet as well as possible out of the bilge, with 
dead prawns in it, that sagged to and fro at the bottom. The Burman who 
paddled Elizabeth was sixty years old, half naked, leaf-brown, with a body as 
perfect as that of a young man. His face was battered, gentle and humorous. 
His black cloud of hair, finer than that of most Burmans, was knotted loosely 
over one ear, with a wisp or two tumbling across his cheek. Elizabeth was 
nursing her uncle’s gun across her knees. Flory had offered to take it, but she 
had refused; in reality, the feel of it delighted her so much that she could not 
bring herself to give it up. She had never had a gun in her hand until today. She 
was wearing a rough skirt with brogue shoes and a silk shirt like a man’s, and 
she knew that with her Terai hat they looked well on her. She was very happy, 
in spite of her aching back and the hot sweat that tickled her face, and the large, 
speckled mosquitoes that hummed round her ankles. 

The stream narrowed and the beds of water hyacinth gave place to steep 
banks of glistening mud, like chocolate. Rickety thatched huts leaned far out 
over the stream, their piles driven into its bed. A naked boy was standing 
between two of the huts, flying a green beetle on a piece of thread like a kite. He 
yelled at the sight of the Europeans, whereat more children appeared from 
nowhere. The old Burman guided the canoe to a jetty made of a single palm- 
trunk laid in the mud-it was covered with barnacles and so gave foothold-and 
sprang out and helped Elizabeth ashore. The others followed with the bags and 
cartridges, and Flo, as she always did on these occasions, fell into the mud and 
sank as deep as the shoulder. A skinny old gentleman wearing a magenta paso, 
with a mole on his cheek from which four yard-long grey hairs sprouted, came 
forward shikoing and cuffing the heads of the children who had gathered round 
the jetty. 

‘The village headman,’ Flory said. 

The old man led the way to his house, walking ahead with an extraordinary 
crouching gajt, like a letter L upside down— the result of rheumatism 
combined with the constant shikoing needed in a minor Government official. 
A mob of children marched rapidly after the Europeans, and more and mote 
dogs, all yapping and causing Flo to shrink against Flory’s heels. In the 



jjo Burmese Days 

doorway of every hut clusters of moonlike, rustic faces gaped at the 
‘Ingaleikma’. The village was darkish under the shade of broad leaves. In the 
rains the creek would flood, turning the lower parts of the village into a squalid 
wooden Venice where the villagers stepped from their front doors into their 
canoes. 

The headman’s house was a little bigger than the others, and it had a 
corrugated iron roof, which, in spite of the intolerable dm it made during the 
rains, was the pride of the headman’s life. He had foregone the building of a 
pagoda, and appreciably lessened his chances of Nirvana, to pay for it. He 
hastened up the steps and gently kicked in the ribs a youth who was lying 
asleep on the veranda. Then he turned and shikoed again to the Europeans, 
asking them to come inside. 

‘Shall we go in?’ Flory said. ‘I expect we shall have to wait half an hour.’ 

‘Couldn’t you tell him to bring some chairs out on the veranda?’ Elizabeth 
said. After her experience in Li Yeik’s house she had privately decided that she 
would never go inside a native house again, if she could help it. 

There was a fuss inside the house, and the headman, the youth and some 
women dragged forth two chairs decorated in an extraordinary manner with 
red hibiscus flowers, and also some begonias growing in kerosene tins. It was 
evident that a sort of double throne had been prepared within for the 
Europeans. When Elizabeth had sat down the headman reappeared with a 
teapot, a bunch of very long, bright green bananas, and six coal-black cheroots. 
But when he had poured her out a cup of tea Elizabeth shook her head, for the 
tea looked, if possible, worse even than Li Yeik’s. 

The headman looked abashed and rubbed his nose. He turned to Flory and 
asked him whether the young thakin-ma would like some milk in her tea. He 
had heard that Europeans drank milk in their tea. The villages should, if it 
were desired, catch a cow and milk it. However, Elizabeth still refused the tea; 
but she was thirsty, and she asked Flory to send for one of the bottles of soda- 
water that Ko S’ la had brought in his bag. Seeing this, the headman retired, 
feeling guiltily that his preparations had been insufficient, and left the veranda 
to the Europeans. 

. Elizabeth was still nursing her gun on her knees, while Flory leaned against 
the veranda rail pretending to smoke one of the headman’s cheroots. Elizabeth 
was pining for the shooting to begin. She plied Flory with innumerable 
questions. 

‘How soon can we start out? Do you think we’ve got enough cartridges? 
How many beaters shall we take? Oh, I do so hope we have some luck! You do 
think we’ll get something, don’t you?’ 

‘Nothing wonderful, probably. We’re bound to get a few pigeons, and 
perhaps jungle fowl. They’re out of season, but it doesn’t matter shooting the 
cocks. They say there’s a leopard round here, that killed a bullock almost in the 
village last week.’ 

‘Oh, a leopard! How lovely if we could shoot it!’ 

‘It’s very unlikely, I’m afraid. The only rule with this shooting in Burma is 
to hope for nothing. It’s invariably disappointing. The jungles teem with 



Burmese Days iji 

game, but as often as not you don’t even get a chance to fire your gun.’ 

‘Why is that?’ 

‘The jungle is so thick. An animal may be five yards away and quite 
invisible, and half the time they manage to dodge back past the beaters. Even 
when you see them it’s only for a flash of a second. And again, there’s water 
everywhere, so that no animal is tied down to one particular spot. A tiger, for 
instance, will roam hundreds of miles if it suits him. And with all the game 
there is, they need never come back to a kill if there’s anything suspicious 
about it. Night after night, when I was a boy, I’ve sat up over horrible stinking 
dead cows, waiting for tigers that never came.’ 

Elizabeth wriggled her shoulder-blades against the chair. It was a movement 
that she made sometimes when she was deeply pleased. She loved Flory, really 
loved him, when he talked like this. The most trivial scrap of information 
about shooting thrilled her. If only he would always talk about shooting, 
instead of about books and Art and that mucky poetry! In a sudden burst of 
admiration she decided that Flory was really quite a handsome man, in his 
way. He looked so splendidly manly, with his pagri-cloxh. shirt open at the 
throat, and his shorts and puttees and shooting boots! And his face, lined, 
sunburned, like a soldier’s face. He was standing with his birthmarked cheek 
away from her. She pressed him to go on talking. 

‘Do tell me some more about tiger-shooting. It’s so awfully interesting!’ 

He described the shooting, years ago, of a mangy old man-eater who had 
killed one of his coolies. The wait in the mosquito-ridden machan; the tiger’s 
eyes approaching through the dark jungle, like great green lanterns; the 
panting, slobbering noise as he devoured the coolie’s body, tied to a stake 
below. Flory told it all perfunctorily enough-did not the proverbial Anglo- 
Indian bore always talk about tiger-shooting?-but Elizabeth wriggled her 
shoulders delightedly once more. He did not realize how such talk as this 
reassured her and made up for -all the times when he had bored her and 
disquieted her. Six shock-headed youths came down the path, carrying dahs 
over their shoulders, and headed by a stringy but active old man with grey hair. 
They halted in front of the headman’s house, and one of them uttered a hoarse 
whoop, whereat the headman appeared and explained that these were the 
beaters. They were ready to start now, if the young thakin~ma did not find it 
too hot. 

They set out. The side of the village away from the creek was protected by a 
hedge of cactus six feet high and twelve thick. One went up a narrow lane of 
cactus, then along a rutted, dusty bullock-cart track, with bamboos as tall as 
flagstaff's growing densely on either side. The beaters marched rapidly ahead in 
single file, each with his broad dah laid along his forearm. The old hunter was 
marching just in front of Elizabeth. His longyi was hitched up like a loin-cloth, 
and his meagre thighs were tattooed with dark blue patterns, so intricate that 
he might have been wearing drawers of blue lace. A bamboo the thickness of a 
man’s wrist had fallen and hung across the path. The leading beater severed it 
with an upward flick of his dah; the prisoned water gushed out of it with a 
diamond-flash- After half a mile they reached the open fields, and everyone 



j j2 Burmese Days 

was sweating, for they had walked fast and the sun was savage. 

‘That’s where we’re going to shoot, over there,’ Flory said. 

He pointed across the stubble, a wide dust-coloured plain, cut up into 
patches of an acre or two by mud boundaries. It was horribly flat, and lifeless 
save for the snowy egrets. At the far edge a jungle of great trees rose abruptly, 
like a dark green cliff. The beaters had gone across to a small tree like a 
hawthorn twenty yards away. One of them was on his knees, shikoing to the 
tree and gabbling, while the old hunter poured a bottle of some cloudy liquid 
on to the ground. The others stood looking on with serious, bored faces, like 
men in church. 

‘What are those men doing?’ Elizabeth said. 

‘Only sacrificing to the local gods. Nats, they call them-a kind of dryad. 
They’re praying to him to bring us good luck.’ 

The hunter came back and in a cracked voice explained that they were to 
beat a small patch of scrub over to the right before proceeding to the main 
jungle. Apparently the Nat had counselled this. The hunter directed Flory and 
Elizabeth where to stand, pointing with his dah. The six beaters plunged into 
the scrub; they would make a detour and beat back towards the paddy-fields. 
There were some bushes of the wild rose thirty yards from the jungle’s edge, 
and Flory and Elizabeth took cover behind one of these, while Ko S’la 
squatted down behind another bush a little distance away, holding Flo’s collar 
and stroking her to keep her quiet. Flory always sent Ko S’la to a distance 
when he was shooting, for he had an irritating trick of clicking his tongue if a 
shot was missed. Presently there was a far-off echoing sound-a sound of 
tapping and strange hollow cries; the beat had started. Elizabeth at once began 
trembling so uncontrollably that she could not keep her gun-barrel still A 
wonderful bird, a little bigger than a thrush, with grey wings and body of 
blazing scarlet, broke from the trees and came towards them with a dipping 
flight. The tapping and the cries came nearer. One of the bushes at the jungle’s 
edge waved violently-some large animal was emerging, Elizabeth raised her 
gun and tried to steady it. But it was only a naked yellow beater, dah in hand. 
He saw that he had emerged and shouted to the others to join him. 

Elizabeth lowered her gun. ‘What’s happened?’ 

‘Nothing. The beat’s over.’ 

‘So there was nothing there!’ she cried in bitter disappointment. 

‘Never mind, one never gets anything the first beat. We’ll have better luck 
next time.’ 

They crossed the lumpy stubble, climbing over the mud boundaries that 
divided the fields, and took up their position opposite the high green wall of the 
jungle. Elizabeth had already learned how to load her gun. This time the beat 
had hardly started when Ko S’la whistled sharply. 

‘Look out!’ Flory cried. ‘Quick, here they come!’ 

A flight of green pigeons were dashing towards them at incredible speed, 
forty yards up. They were like a handful of catapulted stones whirling through 
the sky. Elizabeth was helpless with excitement. For a moment she could not 
move, then she flung her barrel into the air, somewhere in the direction of the 



Burmese Days ij 3 

birds, and tugged violently at the trigger. Nothing happened-she was pulling 
at the trigger-guard. Just as the birds passed overhead she found the triggers 
and pulled both of them simultaneously There was a deafening roar and she 
was thrown backwards a pace with her collar-bone almost broken She had 
fired thirty yards behind the birds. At the same moment she saw Flory turn 
and level his gun. Two of the pigeons, suddenly checked m their flight, swirled 
over and dropped to the ground like arrows. Ko S’la yelled, and he and Flo 
raced after them. 

‘Look out!’ said Flory, ‘here’s an imperial pigeon. Let’s have him!’ 

A large heavy bird, with flight much slower than the others, was flapping 
overhead. Elizabeth did not care to fire after her previous failure. She watched 
Flory thrust a cartridge into the breech and raise his gun, and the white plume 
of smoke leapt up from the muzzle. The bird planed heavily down, his wing 
broken. Flo and Ko S’la came running excitedly up, Flo with the big imperial 
pigeon in her mouth, and Ko S’la grinning and producing two green pigeons 
from his Kachin bag. 

Flory took one of the little green corpses to show to Elizabeth. ‘Look at it. 
Aren’t they lovely things? The most beautiful bird in Asia.’ 

Elizabeth touched its smooth feathers with her finger-tip. It filled her with 
bitter envy, because she had not shot it. And yet it was curious, but she felt 
almost an adoration for Flory now that she had seen how he could shoot. 

‘Just look at its breast-feathers; like a jewel. It’s murder to shoot them. The 
Burmese say that when you kill one of these birds they vomit, meaning to say, 
“Look, here is all I possess, and I’ve taken nothing of yours. Why do you kill 
me?” I’ve never seen one do it, I must admit.’ 

‘Are they good to eat?’ 

‘Very. Even so, I always feel it’s a shame to kill them.’ 

‘I wish I could do it like you do!’ she said enviously. 

‘It’s only a knack, you’ll soon pick it up. You know how to hold your gun, 
and that’s more than most people do when they start.’ 

However, at the next two beats, Elizabeth could hit nothing. She had 
learned not to fire both barrels at once, but she was too paralysed with 
excitement ever to take aim. Flory shot several more pigeons, and a small 
bronze-wing dove with back as green as verdigris. The jungle fowl were too 
cunning to show themselves, though one could hear them cluck-clucking all 
round, and once or twice the sharp trumpet-call of a cock. They were getting 
deeper into the jungle now. The light was greyish, with dazzling patches of 
sunlight. Whichever way one looked one’s view was shut in by the 
multitudinous ranks of trees, and the tangled bushes and creepers that 
struggled round their bases like the sea round the piles of a pier. It was so 
dense, like a bramble bush extending mile after mile, that one’s eyes were 
oppressed by it. Some of the creepers were huge, like serpents. Flory and 
Elizabeth struggled along narrow game-tracks, up slippery banks, thorns 
tearing at their clothes. Both their shirts were drenched with sweat. It was 
stifling hot, with a scent of crushed leaves. Sometimes for minutes together 
invisible cidadas would keep up a shrill, metallic pinging like the twanging of a 



ijq Burmese Days 

steel guitar, and then, by stopping, make a silence that startled one. 

As they were walking to the fifth beat they came to a great peepul tree in 
which, high up, one could hear imperial pigeons cooing. It was a sound like the 
far-off lowing of cows. One bird fluttered out and perched alone on the 
topmost bough, a small greyish shape. 

‘Try a sitting shot,’ Flory said to Elizabeth. ‘Get your sight on him and pull 
off without waiting. Don’t shut your left eye.’ 

Elizabeth raised her gun, which had begun trembling as usual. The beaters 
halted in a group to watch, and some of them could not refrain from clicking 
their tongues; they thought it queer and rather shocking to see a woman handle 
a gun. With a violent effort of will Elizabeth kept her gun still for a second, and 
pulled the trigger. She did not hear the shot; one never does when it has gone 
home. The bird seemed to jump upwards from the bough, then down it came, 
tumbling over and over, and stuck in a fork ten yards up. One of the beaters 
laid down his dah and glanced appraisingly at the tree; then he walked to a 
great creeper, thick as a man’s thigh and twisted like a stick of barley sugar, 
that hung far out from a bough. He ran up the creeper as easily as though it had 
been a ladder, walked upright along the broad bough, and brought the pigeon 
to the ground. He put it limp and warm into Elizabeth’s hand. 

She could hardly give it up, the feel of it so ravished her. She could have 
kissed it, hugged it to her breast. All the men, Flory and Ko S’la and the 
beaters, smiled at one another to see her fondling the dead bird. Reluctantly, 
she gave it to Ko S’la to put in the bag. She was conscious of an extraordinary 
desire to fling her arms round Flory’s neck and kiss him; and in some way it 
was the killing of the pigeon that made her feel this. 

After the fifth beat the hunter explained to Flory that they must cross a 
clearing that was used for growing pineapples, and would beat another patch 
of jungle beyond. They came out into sunlight, dazzling after the jungle 
gloom. The clearing was an oblong of an acre or two hacked out of the jungle 
like a patch mown in long grass, with the pineapples, prickly cactus-like plants, 
growing in rows, almost smothered by weeds. A low hedge of thorns divided 
the field in the middle. They had nearly crossed the field when there was a 
sharp cock-a-doodle-doo from beyond the hedge. 

‘Oh, listen!’ said Elizabeth, stopping. ‘Was that a jungle cock?’ 

‘Yes. They come out to feed about this time.’ 

‘Couldn’t we go and shoot him?’ 

‘We’ll have a try if you like. They’re cunning beggars. Look, we’ll stalk up 
the hedge until we get opposite where he is. We’ll have to go without making a 
sound.’ 

He sent Ko S’la and the beaters on, and the two of them skirted the field and 
crept along the hedge. They had to bend double to keep themselves out of 
sight. Elizabeth was in front. The hot sweat trickled down her face, tickling her 
upper lip, and her heart was knocking violently. She felt Flory touch her heel 
from behind. Both of them stood upright and looked over the hedge together. 

Ten yards away a little cock the size of a bantam, was pecking vigorously at 
the ground. He was beautiful, with his long silky neck-feathers, bunched comb 



Burmese Days ij$ 

and arching, laurel-green tail. There were six hens with him, smaller brown 
birds, with diamond-shaped feathers like snake-scales on their backs. All this 
Elizabeth and Flory saw in the space of a second, then with a squawk and a 
whirr the birds were up and flying like bullets for the jungle. Instantly, 
automatically as it seemed, Elizabeth raised her gun and fired. It was one of 
those shots where there is no aiming, no consciousness of the gun in one’s 
hand, when one’s mind seems to fly behind the charge and drive it to the mark. 
She knew the bird was doomed even before she pulled the trigger. He tumbled, 
showered feathers thirty yards away. ‘Good shot, good shot!’ cried Flory. In 
their excitement both of them dropped their guns, broke through the thorn 
hedge and raced side by side to where the bird lay. 

‘Good shot!’ Flory repeated, as excited as she ‘By Jove, I’ve never seen 
anyone kill a flying bird their first day, never! You got your gun off like 
lightning. It’s marvellous!’ 

They were kneeling face to face with the dead bird between them. With a 
shock they discovered that their hands, his right and her left, were clasped 
tightly together. They had run to the place hand-in-hand without noticing it. 

A sudden stillness came on them both, a sense of something momentous that 
must happen. Flory reached across and took her other hand. It came 
yieldingly, willingly. For a moment they knelt with their hands clasped 
together. The sun blazed upon them and the warmth breathed out of their 
bodies; they seemed to be floating upon clouds of heat and joy. He took her by 
the upper arms to draw her towards him. 

Then suddenly he turned his head away and stood up, pulling Elizabeth to 
her feet. He let go of her arms. He had remembered his birthmark. He dared 
not do it. Not here, not in daylight! The snub it invited was too terrible. To 
cover the awkwardness of the moment he bent down and picked up the jungle 
cock. 

‘It was splendid,’ he said. ‘You don’t need any teaching. You can shoot 
already. We’d better get on to the next beat.’ 

They had just crossed the hedge and picked up their guns when there was a 
series of shouts from the edge of the jungle. Two of the beaters were running 
towards them with enormous leaps, waving their arms wildly in the air. 

‘What is it?’ Elizabeth said. 

‘I don’t know. They’ve seen some animal or other. Something good, by the 
look of them.’ 

‘Oh, hurrah! Come on!’ 

They broke into a run and hurried across the field, breaking through the 
pineapples and the stiff prickly weeds. Ko S’la and five of the beaters were 
standing in a knot all talking at once, and the other two were beckoning 
excitedly to Flory and Elizabeth. As they came up they saw in the middle of the 
group an old woman who was holding up her ragged longyi with one hand and 
gesticulating with a big cigar in the other. Elizabeth could hear some word that 
sounded like ‘Char’ repeated over and over again. 

‘What is it they’re saying?’ she said. 

The beaters came crowding round Flory, all talking eagerly and pointing 



j 7 6 Burmese Days 

into the jungle. After a few questions he waved his hand to silence them and 
turned to Elizabeth: 

‘I say, here’s a bit of luck! This old girl was coming through the jungle, and 
she says that at the sound of the shot you fired just now, she saw a leopard run 
across the path. These fellows know where he’s likely to hide. If we’re quick 
they may be able to surround him before he sneaks away, and drive him out. 
Shall we try it?’ 

‘Oh, do let’s! Oh, what awful fun! How lovely, how lovely if we could get 
that leopard!’ 

‘You understand it’s dangerous? We’ll keep close together and it’ll probably 
be all right, but it’s never absolutely safe on foot. Are you ready for that?’ 

‘Oh, of course, of course! I’m not frightened. Oh, do let’s be quick and start!’ 

‘One of you come with us, and show us the way,’ he said to the beaters. ‘Ko 
S’la, put Flo on the leash and go with the others. She’ll never keep quiet with 
us. We’ll have to hurry,’ he added to Elizabeth. 

Ko S’la and the beaters hurried off along the edge of the jungle. They would 
strike in and begin beating farther up. The other beater, the same youth who 
had climbed the tree after the pigeon, dived into the jungle, Flory and 
Elizabeth following. With short rapid steps, almost running, he led them 
through a labyrinth of game-tracks. The bushes trailed so low that sometimes 
one had almost to crawl, and creepers hung across the path like trip-wires. The 
ground was dusty and silent underfoot. At some landmark in the jungle the 
beater halted, pointed to the ground as a sign that this spot would do, and put 
his finger on his lips to enjoin silence. Flory took four SG cartridges from his 
pockets and took Elizabeth’s gun to load it silently. 

There was a faint rustling behind them, and they all started. A nearly naked 
youth with a pellet-bow, come goodness knows whence, had parted the 
bushes. He looked at the beater, shook his head and pointed up the path. There 
was a dialogue of signs between the two youths, then the beater seemed to 
agree. Without speaking all four stole forty yards along the path, round a bend, 
and halted again. At the same moment a frightful pandemonium of yells, 
punctuated by barks from Flo, broke out a few hundred yards away. 

Elizabeth felt the beater’s hand on her shoulder, pushing her downwards. 
They all four squatted down under cover of a prickly bush, the Europeans in 
front, the Burmans behind. In the distance there was such a tumult of yells and 
the rattle of dahs against tree-trunks that one could hardly believe six men 
could make so much noise. The beaters were taking good care that the leopard 
should not turn back upon them. Elizabeth watched some large, pale yellow 
ants marching like soldiers over the thorns of the bush. One fell on to her hand 
and crawled up her forearm. She dared not move to brush it away. She was 
praying silently, ‘Please God, let the leopard come! Oh please, God, let the 
leopard come!’ 

There was a sudden loud pattering on the leaves. Elizabeth raised her gun, 
but Flory shook his head sharply and pushed the barrel down again. A jungle 
fowl scuttled across the path with long noisy strides. 

The yells of the beaters seemed hardly to come any closer, and this end of the 



Burmese Days 777 

jungle the silence was like a pall. The ant on Elizabeth’s arm bit her painfully 
and dropped to the ground. A dreadful despair had begun to form in her heart; 
the leopard was not coming, he had slipped away somewhere, they had lost 
him. She almost wished they had never heard of the leopard, the 
disappointment was so agonizing. Then she felt the beater pinch her elbow. He 
was craning his face forward, his smooth, dull yellow cheek only a few inches 
from her own; she could smell the coco-nut oil in his hair. His coarse lips were 
puckered as in a whistle; he had heard something. Then Flory and Elizabeth 
heard it too, the faintest whisper, as though some creature of air were gliding 
through the jungle, just brushing the ground with its foot. At the same 
moment the leopard’s head and shoulders emerged from the undergrowth, 
fifteen yards down the path. 

He stopped with his forepaws on the path. They could see his low, fiat-eared 
head, his bare eye-tooth and his thick, terrible forearm. In the shadow he did 
not look yellow but grey. He was listening intently. Elizabeth saw Flory spring 
to his feet, raise his gun and pull the trigger instantly. The shot roared, and 
almost simultaneously there was a heavy crash as the brute dropped fiat in the 
weeds. ‘Look out!’ Flory cried, ‘he’s not done for!’ He fired again, and there 
was a fresh thump as the shot went home. The leopard gasped. Flory threw 
open his gun and felt in his pocket for a cartridge, then flung all his cartridges 
on to the path and fell on his knees, searching rapidly among them. 

‘Damn and blast it!’ he cried. ‘There isn’t a single SG among them. Where 
in hell did I put them?’ 

The leopard had disappeared as he fell. He was thrashing about in the 
undergrowth like a great, wounded snake, and crying out with a snarling, 
sobbing noise, savage and pitiful. The noise seemed to be coming nearer. 
Every cartridge Flory turned up had 6 or 8 marked on the end. The rest of the 
large-shot cartridges had, in fact, been left with Ko S’la. The crashing and 
snarling were now hardly five yards away, but they could see nothing, the 
jungle was so thick. 

The two Burmans were crying out ‘Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!’ The sound of 
‘Shoot! Shoot!’ got farther away-they were skipping for the nearest climbable 
trees. There was a crash in the undergrowth so close that it shook the bush by 
which Elizabeth was standing. 

‘By God, he’s almost on us!’ Flory said. ‘We must turn him somehow. Let 
fly at the sound.’ 

Elizabeth raised her gun. Her knees were knocking like castanets, but her 
hand was as steady as stone. She fired rapidly, once, twice. The crashing noise 
receded. The leopard was crawling away, crippled but swift, and still invisible. 

‘Well done! You’ve scared him,’ Flory said. 

‘But he’s getting away! He’s getting away!’ Elizabeth cried, dancing about in 
agitation. She made to follow him. Flory jumped to his feet and pulled her 
back. 

‘No fear! You stay here. Wait!’ 

He slipped two of the small-shot cartridges into his gun and ran after the 
sound of the leopard. For a moment Elizabeth could not see either beast or 



jjS Burmese Days 

man, then they reappeared in a bare patch thirty yards away. The leopard was 
writhing along on his belly, sobbing as he went. Flory levelled his gun and 
fired at four yards’ distance. The leopard jumped like a cushion when one hits 
it, then rolled over, curled up and lay still. Flory poked the body with his gun- 
barrel. It did not stir. 

‘It’s all right, he’s done for,’ he called. ‘Come and have a look at him.’ 

The two Burmans jumped down from their tree, and they and Elizabeth 
went across to where Flory was standing. The leopard-it was a male-was 
lying curled up with his head between his forepaws. He looked much smaller 
than he had looked alive; he looked rather pathetic, like a dead kitten. 
Elizabeth’s knees were still quivering. She and Flory stood looking down at the 
leopard, close together, but not clasping hands this time. 

It was only a moment before Ko S’la and the others came up, shouting with 
glee. Flo gave one sniff at the dead leopard, then down went her tail and she 
bolted fifty yards, whimpering. She could not be induced to come near him 
again. Everyone squatted down round the leopard and gazed at him. They 
stroked his beautiful white belly, soft as a hare’s, and squeezed his broad pugs 
to bring out the claws, and pulled back his black lips to examine the fangs. 
Presently two of the beaters cut down a tall bamboo and slung the leopard upon 
it by his paws, with his long tail trailing down, and then they marched back to 
the village in triumph. There was no talk of further shooting, though the light 
still held. They were all, including the Europeans, too anxious to get home and 
boast of what they had done. 

Flory and Elizabeth walked side by side across the stubble field. The others 
were thirty yards ahead with the guns and the leopard, and Flo was slinking 
after them a long way in the rear. The sun was going down beyond the 
Irrawaddy. The light shone level across the field, gilding the stubble stalks, 
and striking into- their faces with a yellow, gentle beam. Elizabeth’s shoulder 
was almost touching Flory ’s as they walked. The sweat that had drenched their 
shirts had dried again. They did not talk much. They were happy with that 
inordinate happiness that comes of exhaustion and achievement, and with 
which nothing else in life-no joy of either the body or the mind-is even able to 
be comparecL 

‘The leopard skin is yours,’ Flory said as they approached the village. 

‘Oh, but you shot him!’ 

‘Never mind, you stick to the skin. By Jove, I wonder how many of the 
women in this country would have kept their heads like you did! I can just see 
them screaming and fainting. I’ll get the skin cured for you in Kyauktada jail. 
There’s a convict there who can cure skins as soft as velvet. He’s doing a seven- 
year sentence, so he’s had time to learn the job.’ 

‘Oh well, thanks awfully.’ 

No more was said for the present. Later, when they had washed off the sweat 
and dirt, and were fed and rested, they would meet again at the Club. They 
made no rendezvous, but it was understood between them that they would 
meet. Also, it was understood that Flory would ask Elizabeth to marry him, 
though nothing was said about this either. 



B urmese Days 179 

At the village Flory paid the beaters eight annas each, superintended the 
skinning of the leopard, and gave the headman a bottle of beer and two of the 
imperial pigeons. The skin and skull were packed into one of the canoes. All 
the whiskers had been stolen, in spite of Ko S’la’s efforts to guard them. Some 
young men of the village carried off the carcass in order to eat the heart and 
various other organs, the eating of which they believed would make them 
strong and swift like the leopard 



When Flory arrived at the Club he found the Lackersteens in an unusually 
morose mood. Mrs Lackersteen was sitting, as usual, in the best place under 
the punkah, and was reading the Civil List, the Debrett of Burma. She was in a 
bad temper with her husband, who had defied her by ordering a ‘large peg’ as 
soon as he reached the Club, and was further defying her by reading the 
Pink’un. Elizabeth was alone in the stuffy little library, turning over the pages 
of an old copy of Blackwood 3 s. 

Since parting with Flory, Elizabeth had had a very disagreeable adventure. 
She had come out of her bath and was half-way through dressing for dinner 
when her uncle had suddenly appeared in her room-pretext, to hear some 
more about the day’s shooting-and begun pinching her leg in a way that 
simply could not be misunderstood. Elizabeth was horrified. This was her first 
introduction to the fact that' some men are capable of making love to their 
nieces. We live and learn. Mr Lackersteen had tried to carry the thing off as a 
joke, but he was too clumsy and too nearly drunk to succeed. It was fortunate 
that his wife was out of hearing, or there might have been a first-rate scandal. 

After this, dinner was an uncomfortable meal. Mr Lackersteen was sulking. 
What rot it was, the way these women put on airs and prevented you from 
having a good time! The girl was pretty enough to remind him of the 
illustrations in La Vie Parisienne , and damn it ! wasn’t he paying for her keep? 
It was a shame. But for Elizabeth the position was very serious. She was 
penniless and had no home except her uncle’s house. She had come eight 
thousand miles to stay here. It would be terrible if after only a fortnight her 
uncle’s house were to be made uninhabitable for her. 

Consequently, one thing was much surer m her mind than it had been: that 
if Flory asked her to marry him (and he would, there was little doubt of it), she 
would say yes. At another time it just possible that she would have decided 
differently. This afternoon, under the spell of that glorious, exciting, 
altogether ‘lovely’ adventure, she had come near to loving Flory; as near as, in 
his particular case, she was able to come. Yet even after that, perhaps, her 
doubts would have returned. For there had always been something dubious 
about Flory; his age, his birthmark, his queer, perverse way of talking~that 



180 Burmese Days 

‘highbrow’ talk that was at once unintelligible and disquieting There had been 
days when she had even disliked him. But now her uncle’s behaviour had 
turned the scale. Whatever happened she had got to escape from her uncle’s 
house, and that soon. Yes, undoubtedly she would marry Flory when he asked 
her! 

He could see her answer in her face as he came into the library. Her air was 
gentler, more yielding than he had known it. She was wearing the same lilac- 
coloured frock that she had worn that first morning when he met her, and the 
sight of the familiar frock gave him courage It seemed to bring her nearer to 
him, taking away the strangeness and the elegance that had sometimes 
unnerved him. 

He picked up the magazine she had been reading and made some remark; for 
a moment they chattered in the banal way they so seldom managed to avoid. It 
is strange how the drivelling habits of conversation will persist into almost all 
moments. Yet even as they chattered they found themselves drifting to the 
door and then outside, and presently to the big frangipani tree by the tennis 
court. It was the night of the full moon. Flaring like a white-hot coin, so 
brilliant that it hurt one’s eyes, the moon swam rapidly upwards in a sky of 
smoky blue, across which drifted a few wisps of yellowish cloud. The stars 
were all invisible. The croton bushes, by day hideous things like jaundiced 
laurels, were changed by the moon into jagged black and white designs like 
fantastic wood-cuts. By the compound fence two Dravidian coolies were 
walking down the road, transfigured, their white rags gleaming. Through the 
tepid air the scent streamed from the frangipani trees like some intolerable 
compound out of a penny-in-the-slot machine. 

‘Look at the moon, just look at it!’ Flory said. ‘It’s like a white sun. It’s 
brighter than an English winter day.’ 

Elizabeth looked up into the branches of the frangipani tree, which the 
moon seemed to have changed into rods of silver. The light lay thick, as though 
palpable, on everything, crusting the earth and the rough bark of trees like 
some dazzling salt, and every leaf seemed to bear a freight of solid light, like 
snow. Even Elizabeth, indifferent to such things, was astonished. 

‘It’s wonderful! You never see moonlight like that at Home. It’s so-so-’ No 
adjective except ‘bright’ presenting itself, she was silent. She had a habit of 
leaving her sentences unfinished, like Rosa Dartle, though for a different 
reason. 

‘Yes, the old moon does her best in this country. How that tree does stink, 
doesn’t it? Beastly, tropical thing! I hate a tree that blooms all the year round, 
don’t you?’ 

He was talking half abstractedly, to cover the time till the coolies should be 
out of sight. As they disappeared he put his arm round Elizabeth’s shoulder, 
and then, when she did not start or speak, turned her round and drew her 
against him. Her head came against his breast, and her short hair grazed his 
lips. He put his hand under her chin and lifted her face up to meet his. She was 
not wearing her spectacles. 

‘You don’t mind?’ 



Burmese Days 181 

‘No.’ 

‘I mean, you don't mind my-this thing of mine?’ he shook his head slightly 
to indicate the birthmark. He could not kiss her without first asking this 
question. 

‘No, no. Of course not ’ 

A moment after their mouths met he felt her bare arms settle lightly round 
his neck. They stood pressed together, against the smooth trunk of the 
frangipani tree, body to body, mouth to mouth, for a minute or more. The 
sickly scent of the tree came mingling with the scent of Elizabeth’s hair. And 
the scent gave him a feeling of stultification, of remoteness from Elizabeth, 
even though she was in his arms. All that that alien tree symbolized for him, his 
exile, the secret, wasted years-it was like an unbridgeable gulf between them. 
How should he ever make her understand what it was that he wanted of her? 
He disengaged himself and pressed her shoulders gently against the tree, 
looking down at her face, which he could see very clearly though the moon was 
behind her. 

‘It’s useless trying to tell you what you mean to me,’ he said. ‘“What you 
mean to me!” These blunted phrases! You don’t know, you can’t know, how 
much I love you. But I’ve got to try and tell you. There’s so much I must tell 
you. Had we better go back to the Club? They may come looking for us. We 
can talk on the veranda.’ 

‘Is my hair very untidy?’ she said 

‘It’s beautiful.’ 

‘But has it got untidy? Smooth it for me, would you, please?’ 

She bent her head towards him, and he smoothed the short, cool locks with 
his hand. The way she bent her head to him gave him a curious feeling of 
intimacy, far more intimate than the kiss, as though he had already been her 
husband. Ah, he must have her, that was certain! Only by marrying her could 
his life be salvaged. In a moment he would ask her. They walked slowly 
through the cotton bushes and back to the Club, his arm still round her 
shoulder. 

‘We can talk on the veranda,’ he repeated. ‘Somehow, we’ve never really 
talked, you and I. My God, how I’ve longed all these years for somebody to 
talk to! How I could talk to you, interminably, interminably! That sounds 
boring. I’m afraid it will be boring. I must ask you to put up with it for a little 
while.’ 

She made a sound of remonstrance at the word ‘boring’. 

‘No, it is boring, I know that. We Anglo-Indians are always looked on as 
bores. And we are bores. But we can’t help it. You see, there’s-how shall I 
say?-a demon inside us driving us to talk. We walk about under a load of 
memories which we long to share and somehow never can. It’s the price we pay 
for coming to this country.’ 

They were fairly safe from interruption on the side veranda, for there was no 
door opening directly upon it. Elizabeth had sat down with her arms on the 
little wicker table, but Flory remained strolling back and forth, with his hands 
in his coatpockets, stepping into the moonlight that streamed beneath the 



1S2 Burmese Days 

eastern eaves of the veranda, and back into the shadows. 

‘I said just now that I loved you. Love! The word’s been used till it’s 
meaningless. But let me try to explain. This afternoon when you were there 
shooting with me, I thought, my God! here at last is somebody who can share 
my life with me, but really share it, really live it with me-do you see-’ 

He was going to ask her to marry him-indeed, he had intended to ask her 
without more delay. But the words were not spoken yet; instead, he found 
himself talking egoistically on and on. He could not help it. It was so important 
that she should understand something of what his life in this country had been; 
that she should grasp the nature of the loneliness that he wanted her to nullify. 
And it was so devilishly difficult to explain. It is devilish to suffer from a pain 
that is all but nameless. Blessed are they who are stricken only with classifiable 
diseases! Blessed are the poor, the sick, the crossed in love, for at least other 
people know what is the matter with them and will listen to their belly-achings 
with sympathy. But who that has not suffered it understands the pain of exile? 
Elizabeth watched him as he moved to and fro, in and out of the pool of 
moonlight that turned his silk coat to silver. Her heart was still knocking from 
the kiss, and yet her thoughts wandered as he talked. Was he going to ask her to 
marry him? He was being so slow about it! She was dimly aware that he was 
saying something about loneliness. Ah, of course! He was telling her about the 
loneliness she would have to put up with in the jungle, when they were 
married. He needn’t have troubled. Perhaps you did get rather lonely in the 
jungle sometimes? Miles from anywhere, no cinemas, no dances, no one but 
each other to talk to, nothing to do in the evenings except read-rather a bore, 
that. Still, you could have a gramophone. What a difference it would make 
when those new portable radio sets got out to Burma! She was about to say this 
when he added: 

‘Have I made myself at all clear to you? Have you got some picture of the life 
we live here? The foreignness, the solitude, the melancholy! Foreign trees, 
foreign flowers, foreign landscapes, foreign faces. It’s all as alien as a different 
planet. But do you see-and it’s this that I so want you to understand-do you 
see, it mightn’t be so bad living on a different planet, it might even be the most 
interesting thing imaginable, if you had even one person to share it with. One 
person who could see it with eyes something like your own. This country’s 
been a kind of solitary hell to me-it’s so to most of us-and yet I tell you it 
could be a paradise if one weren’t alone. Does all this seem quite meaningless?’ 

He had stopped beside the table, and he picked up her hand. In the half- 
darkness he could see her face only as a pale oval, like a flower, but by the 
feeling of her hand he knew instantly that she had not understood a word of 
what he was saying. How should she, indeed? It was so futile, this meandering 
talk! He would say to her at once. Will you marry me? Was there not a lifetime 
to talk in? He took her other hand and drew her gently to her feet. 

‘Forgive me all this rot I’ve been talking.’ 

‘It’s all right,’ she murmured indistinctly, expecting that he was about to 
kiss her. 

*Nq, it’s rot talking like that. Some things will go into words, some won’t. 



Burmese Days 18 3 

Besides, it was an impertinence to go belly-aching on and on about myself. But 
I was trying to lead up to something. Look, this is what I wanted to say. Will-’ 
c £ 7 z 2 -a-beth!’ 

It was Mrs Lackersteen’s high-pitched, plaintive voice, calling from within 
the Club. 

‘Elizabeth? Where are you, Elizabeth?’ 

Evidently she was near the front door-would be on the veranda in a 
moment. Flory pulled Elizabeth against him. They kissed hurriedly. He 
released her, only holding her hands. 

‘Quickly, there’s just time. Answer me this. Will you-’ 

But that sentence never got any further. At the same moment something 
extraordinary happened under his feet-the floor was surging and rolling like a 
sea-he was staggering, then dizzily falling, hitting his upper arm a thump as 
the floor rushed towards him. As he lay there he found himself jerked violently 
backwards and forwards as though some enormous beast below were rocking 
the whole building on its back. 

The drunken floor righted itself very suddenly, and Flory sat up, dazed but 
not much hurt. He dimly noticed Elizabeth sprawling beside him, and screams 
coming from within the Club. Beyond the gate two Burmans were racing 
through the moonlight with their long hair streaming behind them. They were 
yelling at the top of their voices: 

‘Nga Yin is shaking himself! Nga Yin is shaking himself.’ 

Flory watched them unintelligently. Who was Nga Yin? Nga is the prefix 
given to criminals. Nga Yin must be a dacoit. Why was he shaking himself? 
Then he remembered. Nga Yin was a giant supposed by the Burmese to be 
buried, like Typhaeus, beneath the crust of the earth. Of course! It was an 
earthquake. 

‘An earthquake!’ he exclaimed, and he remembered Elizabeth and moved to 
pick her up. But she was already sitting up, unhurt, and rubbing the back of 
her head. 

‘Was that an earthquake?’ she said in a rather awed voice, 

Mrs Lackersteen’s tall form came creeping round the corner of the veranda, 
clinging to the wall like some elongated lizard. She was exclaiming 
hysterically: 

‘Oh dear, an earthquake! Oh, what a dreadful shock! I can’t bear it— my heart 
won’t stand it! Oh dear, oh dear! An earthquake!’ 

Mr Lacker steen tottered after her, with a strange ataxic step caused partly 
by earth-tremors and partly by gin. 

‘An earthquake, dammit!’ he said. 

Flory and Elizabeth slowly picked themselves up. They all went inside, with 
that queer feeling in the soles of the feet that one has when one steps from a 
rocking boat on to the shore. The old butler was hurrying from the servants’ 
quarters, thrusting his pagri on his head as he came, and a troop of twittering 
chokras after him. 

‘Earthquake, sir, earthquake!’ he bubbled eagerly. 

‘I should damn well think it was an earthquake,’ said Mr Lackersteen as he 



184 Burmese Days 

lowered himself cautiously into a chair. ‘Here, get some drinks, butler. By 
God, I could do with a nip of something after that.’ 

They all had a nip of something. The butler, shy yet beaming, stood on one 
leg beside the table, with the tray in his hand. ‘Earthquake, sir, big earthquake!’ 
he repeated enthusiastically. He was bursting with eagerness to talk; so, for 
that matter, was everyone else. An extraordinary joie de vivre had come over 
them all as soon as the shaky feeling departed from their legs. An earthquake is 
such fun when it is over. It is so exhilarating to reflect that you are not, as you 
well might be, lying dead under a heap of ruins. With one accord they all burst 
out talking: ‘My dear, I’ve never had such a shock-I fell absolutely flat on my 
back- 1 thought it was a dam’ pariah dog scratching itself under the floor- 1 
thought it must be an explosion somewhere-’ and so on and so forth; the usual 
earthquake-chatter. Even the butler was included in the conversation. 

T expect you can remember ever so many earthquakes can’t you butler?’ 
said Mrs Lackersteen, quite graciously, for her. 

‘Oh yes, madam, many earthquakes! 1887, 1899, 1906, 1912-many, many I 
can remember, madam!’ 

‘The 1912 one was a biggish one,’ Flory said. 

‘Oh, sir, but 1906 was bigger! Very bad shock, sir! And big heathen idol in 
the temple fall down on top of the thathanabaing , that is Buddhist bishop, 
madam, which the Burmese say mean bad omen for failure of paddy crop and 
foot-and-mouth disease. Also in 1887 my first earthquake I remember, when I 
was a little chokra , and Major Maclagan sahib was lying under the table and 
promising he sign the teetotal pledge tomorrow morning. He not know it was 
an earthquake. Also two cows was killed by falling roofs,’ etc., etc. 

The Europeans stayed in the Club till midnight, and the butler popped into 
the room as many as half a dozen times, to relate a new anecdote. So far from 
snubbing him, the Europeans even encouraged him to talk. There is nothing 
like an earthquake for drawing people together. One more tremor, or perhaps 
two, and they would have asked the butler to sit down at table with them. 

Meanwhile, Flory’s proposal went no further. One cannot propose marriage 
immediately after an earthquake. In any case, he did not see Elizabeth alone for 
the rest of that evening. But it did not matter, he knew that she was his now. In 
the morning there would be time enough. On this thought, at peace in his 
mind, and dog-tired after the long day, he went to bed. 



i6 


The vultures in the big pyinkado trees by the cemetery flapped from their 
dung-whitened branches, steadied themselves on the wing, and climbed by 
vast spirals into the upper air. It was early, but Flory was out already. He was 
going down to the Club, to wait until Elizabeth came and then ask her formally 
to marry him. Some instinct, which he did not understand, prompted him to 
do it before the other Europeans returned from the jungle. 

As he came out of the compound gate he saw that there was a new arrival at 
Kyauktada. A youth with a long spear like a needle in his hand was cantering 
across the maidan on a white pony. Some Sikhs, looking like sepoys, ran after 
him, leading two other ponies, a bay and a chestnut, by the bridle. When he 
came level with him Flory halted on the road and shouted good morning. He 
had not recognized the youth, but it is usual in small stations to make strangers 
welcome. The other saw that he was hailed, wheeled his pony negligently 
round and brought it to the side of the road. He was a youth of about twenty- 
five, lank but very straight, and manifestly a cavalry officer. He had one of 
those rabbit-like faces common among English soldiers, with pale blue eyes 
and a little triangle of fore-teeth visible between the lips; yet hard, fearless and 
even brutal in a careless fashion-a rabbit, perhaps, but a tough and martial 
rabbit. He sat his horse as though he were part of it, and he looked offensively 
young and fit. His fresh face was tanned to the exact shade that went with his 
light-coloured eyes, and he was as elegant as a picture with his white buckskin 
topi and his polo-boots that gleamed like an old meerschaum pipe. Flory felt 
uncomfortable in his presence from the start. 

‘How d’you do?’ said Flory. ‘Have you just arrived?’ 

‘Last night, got in by the late train.’ He had a surly, boyish voice. ‘I’ve been 
sent up here with a company of men to stand by in case your local bad-mashes 
start any trouble. My name’s Verrall-Military Police,’ he added, not, 
however, inquiring Flory’s name in return. 

‘Oh yes. We heard they were sending somebody. Where are you putting up?’ 
‘Dak bungalow, for the time being. There was some black beggar staying 
there when I got in last night- Excise Officer or something. I booted him out. 
This is a filthy hole, isn’t, it?’ he said’ with a backward movement of his head, 
indicating the whole of Kyauktada. 

‘I suppose it’s like the rest of these small stations. Are you staying long?’ 
‘Only a month or so, thank God. Till the rains break. What a rotten maidan 
you’ve got here, haven’t you? Pity they can’t keep this stuff cut,’ he added. 



j86 Burmese Days 

swishing the dried-up grass with the point of his spear. ‘Makes it so hopeless 
for polo or anything.’ 

‘I’m afraid you won’t get any polo here,’ Flory said. ‘Tennis is the best we 
can manage. There are only eight of us all told, and most of us spend three- 
quarters of our time in the jungle.’ 

‘Christ! What a hole!’ 

After this there was a silence. The tall, bearded Sikhs stood in a group round 
their horses’ heads, eyeing Flory without much favour. It was perfectly clear 
that Verral was bored with the conversation and wanted to escape. Flory had 
never in his life felt to completely de trop, or so old and shabby. He noticed that 
Verrall’s pony was a beatiful Arab, a mare, with proud neck and arching, 
plume-like tail; a lovely milk-white thing, worth several thousands of rupees. 
Verrall had already twitched the bridle to turn away, evidently feeling that he 
had talked enough for one morning. 

‘That’s a wonderful pony of yours, 5 Flory said. 

‘She’s not bad, better than these Burma scrubs. I’ve come out to do a bit of 
tent-pegging. It’s hopeless trying to knock a polo ball about in this muck. Hey, 
Hira Singh!’ he called, and turned his pony away. 

The sepoy holding the bay pony handed his bridle to a companion, ran to a 
spot forty yards away, and fixed a narrow boxwood peg in the ground. Verral 
took no further notice of Flory. He raised his spear and poised himself as 
though taking aim at the peg, while the Indians backed their horses out of the 
way and stood watching critically. With a just perceptible movement Verrall 
dug his knees into the pony’s sides. She bounded forward like a bullet from a 
catapult. As easily as a centaur the lank, straight youth leaned over in the 
saddle, lowered his spear and plunged it clean through the peg. One of the 
Indians muttered gruffly ‘ Shabash /’ Verrall raised his spear behind him in the 
orthodox fashion, and then, pulling his horse to a canter, wheeled round and 
handed the transfixed peg to the sepoy. 

Verrall rode twice more at the peg, and hit it each time. It was done with 
matchless grace and with extraordinary solemnity. The whole group of men, 
Englishman and Indians, were concentrated upon the business of hitting the 
peg as though it had been a religious ritual. Flory still stood watching, 
disregarded-Verrall’s face was one of those that are specially constructed for 
ignoring unwelcome strangers-but from the very fact that he had been 
snubbed unable to tear himself away. Somehow, Verrall had filled him with a 
horrible sense of inferiority. He was trying to think of some pretext for 
renewing the conversation, when he looked up the hillside and saw Elizabeth, 
in pale blue, coming out of her uncle’s gate. She must have seen the third 
transfixing of the peg. His heart stirred painfully. A thought occurred to him, 
one of those rash thoughts that usually lead to trouble. He called to Verrall, 
who was a few yards away from him, and pointed with his stick. 

‘Do these other two know how to do it?’ 

Verrall looked over his shoulder with a surly air. He had expected Flory to 
go away after being ignored. 

‘What?’ 



Burmese Days i8j 

‘Can these other two do it?’ Flory repeated. 

‘The chestnut’s not bad. Bolts if you let him, though.’ 

‘Let me have a shot at the peg, would you?’ 

‘All right,’ said Verrall ungraciously. ‘Don’t go and cut his mouth to bits.’ 

A sepoy brought the pony, and Flory pretended to examine the curb-chain. 
In reality he was temporizing until Elizabeth should be thirty or forty yards 
away. He made up his mind that he would stick the peg exactly at the moment 
when she passed (it is easy enough on the small Burma ponies, provided that 
they will gallop straight), and then ride up to her with it on his point. That was 
obviously the right move. He did not want her to think that that pink-faced 
young whelp was the only person who could ride. He was wearing shorts, 
which are uncomfortable to ride in, but he knew that, like nearly everyone, he 
looked his best on horseback. 

Elizabeth was approaching. Flory stepped into the saddle, took the spear 
from the Indian and waved it in greeting to Elizabeth. She made no response, 
however. Probably she was shy in front of Verrall. She was looking away, 
towards the cemetery, and her cheeks were pink. 

‘ ChalOy said Flory to the Indian, and then dug his knees into the horse’s 
sides. 

The very next instant, before the horse had taken to bounds, Flory found 
himself hurtling through the air, hitting the ground with a crack that wrenched 
his shoulder almost out of joint, and rolling over and over. Mercifully the spear 
fell clear of him. He lay supine, with a blurred vision of blue sky and floating 
vultures. Then his eyes focused on the khaki pagri and dark face of a Sikh, 
bearded to the eyes, bending over him. 

‘What’s happened?’ he said in English, and he raised himself painfully on his 
elbow. The Sikh made some gruff answer and pointed. Flory saw the chestnut 
pony careering away over the maidan, with the saddle under its belly. The 
girth had not been tightened, and had slipped round; hence his fall. 

When Flory sat up he found that he was in extreme pain. The right shoulder 
of his shirt was tom open and already soaking with blood, and he could feel 
more blood oozing from his cheek. The hard earth had grazed him. His hat, 
too, was gone. With a deadly pang he remembered Elizabeth, and he saw her 
coming towards him, barely ten yards away, looking straight at him as he 
sprawled there so ignominiously. My God, my God! he thought, O my God, 
what a fool I must look! The thought of it even drove away the pain of the fall. 
He clapped a hand over his birth-mark, though the other cheek was the 
damaged one. 

‘Elizabeth! Hullo, Elizabeth! Good morning!’ 

He had called out eagerly, appealingly, as one does when one is conscious of 
looking a fool. She did not answer, and what was almost incredible, she walked 
on without pausing even for an instant, as though she had neither seen nor 
heard him. 

‘Elizabeth!’ he called again, taken aback; ‘did you see my fall? The saddle 
slipped. The fool of a sepoy hadn’t-’ 

There was no question that she had heard him now. She turned her face full 



1 88 Burmese Days 

upon him for a moment, and looked at him and through him as though he had 
not existed. Then she gazed away into the distance beyond the cemetery. It 
was terrible. He called after her in dismay- 

‘ Elizabeth! I say, Elizabeth!’ 

She passed on without a word, without a sign, without a look. She was 
walking sharply down the road, with a click of heels, her back turned upon 
him. 

The sepoys had come round him now, and Verrall, too, had ridden across to 
where Flory lay. Some of the sepoys had saluted Elizabeth; Verrall had 
ignored her, perhaps not seeing her Flory rose stiffly to his feet. He was badly 
bruised, but no bones were broken. The Indians brought him his hat and stick, 
but they did not apologize for their carelessness. They looked faintly 
contemptuous, as though thinking that he had only got what he deserved. It 
was conceivable that they had loosened the girth on purpose. 

‘The saddle slipped,’ said Flory in the weak, stupid way that one does at 
such moments. 

‘Why the devil couldn’t you look at it before you got up?’ said Verrall briefly. 
‘You ought to know these beggars aren’t to be trusted.’ 

Having said which he twitched his bridle and rode away, feeling the incident 
closed. The sepoys followed him without saluting Flory. When Flory reached 
his gate he looked back and saw that the chestnut pony had already been caught 
and re-saddled, and Verrall was tent-pegging upon it. 

The fall had so shaken him that even now he could hardly collect his 
thoughts. What could have made her behave like that? She had seen him lying 
bloody and in pain, and she had walked past him as though he had been a dead 
dog. How could it have happened? Had it happened? It was incredible. Could 
she be angry with him? Could he have offended her in any way? All the 
servants were waiting at the compound fence. They had come out to watch the 
tent-pegging, and every one of them had seen his bitter humiliation. Ko S’la 
ran part of the way down the hill to meet him, with concerned face. 

‘The god has hurt himself? Shall I carry the god back to the house?’ 

‘No,’ said the god. ‘Go and get me some whisky and a clean shirt.’ 

When they got back to the house Ko S’la made Flory sit down on the bed 
and peeled off his torn shirt which the blood had stuck to his body. Ko S’la 
clicked his tongue. 

‘ Ah ma lay? These cuts are full of dirt. You ought not to play these children’s 
games on strange ponies, thakin. Not at your age. It is too dangerous.’ 

‘The saddle slipped,’ Flory said. 

‘Such games,’ pursued Ko S’la, ‘are all very well for the young police officer. 
But you are no longer young, thakin. A fall hurts at your age. You should take 
more care of yourself.’ 

‘Do you take me for an old man?’ said Flory angrily. His shoulder was 
smarting abominably. 

‘You are thirty-five, thakin/ said Ko S’la politely but firmly. 

It was all very humiliating. Ma Pu and Ma Yi, temporarily at peace, had 
brought a pot of some dreadful mess which they declared was good for cuts. 



Burmese Days 189 

Flory told Ko S’la privately to throw it out of the window and substitute 
boracic ointment. Then, while he sat in a tepid bath and Ko S’la sponged the 
dirt out of his grazes, he puzzled helplessly, and, as his head grew clearer, with 
a deeper and deeper dismay, over what had happened. He had offended her 
bitterly, that was clear. But, when he had not even seen her since last night, 
how could he have offended her? And there was no even plausible answer. 

He explained to Ko S’la several times over that his fall was due to the saddle 
slipping. But Ko S’la, though sympathetic, clearly did not believe him. To the 
end of his days, Flory perceived, the fall would be attributed to his own bad 
horsemanship. On the other hand, a fortnight ago, he had won undeserved 
renown by putting to flight the harmless buffalo. Fate is even-handed, after a 
fashion. 



Flory did not see Elizabeth again until he went down to the Club after dinner. 
He had not, as he might have done, sought her out and demanded an 
explanation. His face unnerved him when he looked at it in the glass. With the 
birthmark on one side and the graze on the other it was so woebegone, so 
hideous, that he dared not show himself by daylight. As he entered the Club 
lounge he put his hand over his birthmark— pretext, a mosquito bite on the 
forehead. It would have been more than his nerve was equal to, not to cover his 
birthmark at such a moment. However, Elizabeth was not there. 

Instead, he tumbled into an unexpected quarrel. Ellis and Westfield had just 
got back from the jungle, and they were sitting drinking, in a sour mood. News 
had come from Rangoon that the editor of the Burmese Patriot had been given 
only four months’ imprisonment for his libel against Mr Macregor, and Ellis 
was working himself up into a rage over this light sentence. As soon as Flory 
came in Ellis began baiting him with remarks about ‘that little nigger Very- 
slimy’. At the moment the very thought of quarrelling made Flory yawn, but 
he answered incautiously, and there was an argument. It grew heated, and 
after Ellis had called Flory a nigger’s Nancy Boy and Flory had replied in kind, 
Westfield too lost his temper. He was a good-natured man, but Flory’s Bolshie 
ideas sometimes annoyed him. He could never understand why, when there 
was so clearly a right and a wrong opinion about everything, Flory always 
seemed to delight in choosing the wrong one. He told Flory ‘not to start talking 
like a damned Hyde Park agitator’, and then read him a snappish little sermon, 
taking as his text the five chief beatitudes of the pukka sahib, namely: 


Keeping up our prestige. 

The firm hand (without the velvet glove), 



igo Burmese Days 

We white men must hang together. 

Give them an inch and they’ll take an ell, and 
Espnt de Corps 

All the while his anxiety to see Elizabeth was so gnawing at Flory’s heart that 
he could hardly hear what was said to him. Besides, he had heard it all so often, 
so very often-a hundred times, a thousand times it might be, since his first 
week in Rangoon, when his burra sahib (an old Scotch gin-soaker and great 
breeder of racing ponies, afterwards warned off the turf for some dirty 
business of running the same horse under two different names) saw him take 
off his topi to pass a native funeral and said to him reprovingly: ‘Remember 
laddie, always remember, we are sahiblog and they are dirrt!’ It sickened him, 
now, to have to listen to such trash. So he cut Westfield short by saying 
blasphemously: 

‘Oh, shut up! I’m sick of the subject. Veraswami’s a damned good fellow-a 
damned sight better than some white men I can think of. Anyway, I’m going to 
propose his name for the Club when the general meeting comes. Perhaps he’ll 
liven this bloody place up a bit.’ 

Whereat the row would have become serious if it had not ended as most rows 
ended at the Club— with the appearance of the butler, who had heard the raised 
voices. 

‘Did master call, sir?’ 

‘No. Go to hell,’ said Ellis morosely. 

The butler retired, but that was the end of the dispute for the time being. At 
this moment there were footsteps and voices outside; the Lacker steens were 
arriving at the Club. 

When they entered the lounge, Flory could not even nerve himself to look 
directly at Elizabeth; but he noticed that all three of them were much more 
smartly dressed than usual. Mr Lackersteen was even wearing a dinner- 
jacket-white, because of the season-and was completely sober. The boiled 
shirt and piqui waistcoat seemed to hold him upright and stiffen his moral fibre 
like a breastplate. Mrs Lackersteen looked handsome and serpentine in a red 
dress. In some indefinable way all three gave the impression that they were 
waiting to receive some distinguished guest. 

When drinks had been called for, and Mrs Lackersteen had usurped the 
place under the punkah, Flory took a chair on the outside of the group. He 
dared not accost Elizabeth yet. Mrs Lackersteen had begun talking in an 
extraordinary, silly manner about the dear Prince of Wales, and putting on an 
accent like a temporarily promoted chorus-girl playing the part of a duchess in 
a musical comedy. The others wondered privately what the devil was the 
matter with her. Flory had stationed himself almost behind Elizabeth. She was 
wearing a yellow frock, cut very short as the fashion then was, with 
champagne-coloured stockings and slippers to match, and she carried a big 
ostrich-feather fan. She looked so modish, so adult, that he feared her more 
than he had ever done. It was unbelievable that he had ever kissed her. She was 
talking easily to all the others at once, and now and again he dared to put a 
word into the general conversation; but she never answered him directly, and 



Burmese Days 191 

whether or not she meant to ignore him, he could not tell. 

‘Well/ said Mrs Lackersteen presently, ‘and who’s for a rubbah?’ 

She said quite distinctly a ‘rubbah’. Her accent was growing more 
aristocratic with every word she uttered. It was unaccountable. It appeared 
that Ellis, Westfield and Mr Lackersteen were for a ‘rubbah’. Flory refused as 
soon as he saw that Elizabeth was not playing. Now or never was his chance to 
get her alone. When they all moved for the card-room, he saw with a mixture of 
fear and relief that Elizabeth came last. He stopped in the doorway, barring her 
path. He had turned dreadly pale. She shrank from him a little. 

‘Excuse me/ they both said simultaneously. 

‘One moment/ he said, and do what he would his voice trembled. ‘May I 
speak to you? You don’t mind- there’s something I must say.’ 

‘Will you please let me pass, Mr Flory?’ 

‘Please! Please! We’re alone now. You won’t refuse just to let me speak?’ 
‘What is it, then?’ 

‘It’s only this. Whatever I’ve done to offend you-please tell me what it is. 
Tell me and let me put it right. I’d sooner cut my hand off than offend you. Just 
tell me, don’t let me go on not even knowing what it is.’ 

‘I really don’t know what you’re talking about. “Tell you how you’ve 
offended me?” Why should you have offended me?’ 

‘But I must have! After the way you behaved!’ 

‘“After the way I behaved?” I don’t know what you mean. I don’t know why 
you’re talking in this extraordinary way at all.’ 

‘But you won’t even speak to me! This morning you cut me absolutely dead.’ 
‘Surely I can do as I like without being questioned?’ 

‘But please, please! Don’t you see, you must see, what it’s like for me to be 
snubbed all of a sudden. After all, only last night you-’ 

She turned pink. ‘I think it’s absolutely-absolutely caddish of you to 
mention such things!’ 

‘I know, I know. I know all that. But what else can I do? You walked past me 
this morning as though I’d been a stone. I know that I’ve offended you in some 
way. Can you blame me if I want to know what it is that I’ve done?’ 

He was, as usual, making it worse with every word he said. He perceived that 
whatever he had done, to be made to speak of it seemed to her worse than the 
thing itself. She was not going to explain. She was going to leave him in the 
dark-snub him and then pretend that nothing had happened; the natural 
feminine move. Nevertheless he urged her again; 

‘Please tell me. I can’t let everything end between us like this.’ 

‘ “End between us”? There was nothing to end/ she said coldly. 

The vulgarity of this remark wounded him, and he said quickly: 

‘That wasn’t like you, Elizabeth! It’s not generous to cut a man dead after 
you’ve been kind to him, and then refuse even to tell him the reason. You 
might be straightforward with me. Please tell me what it is that I’ve done.’ 

She gave him an oblique, bitter look, bitter not because of what he had done, 
but because he had made her speak of it. But perhaps she was anxious to end 
the scene, and she said: 



1 92 Burmese Days 

‘Well then, if you absolutely force me to speak of it-’ 

‘Yes?’ 

‘I’m told that at the very same time as you were pretending to- well, when 
you were . . . with me-oh, it’s too beastly! I can’t speak of it.’ 

‘Go on.’ 

‘I’m told that you’re keeping a Burmese woman. And now, will you please let 
me pass?’ 

With that she sailed-there was no other possible word for it-she sailed past 
him with a swish of her short skirts, and vanished into the card-room. And he 
remained looking after her, too appalled to speak, and looking unutterably 
ridiculous. 

It was dreadful. He could not face her after that. He turned to hurry out of 
the Club, and then dared not even pass the door of the card-room, lest she 
should see him. He went into the lounge, wondering how to escape, and finally 
climbed over the veranda rail and dropped on to the small square of lawn that 
ran down to the Irrawaddy. The sweat was running from his forehead. He 
could have shouted with anger and distress. The accursed luck of it! To be 
caught out over a thing like that. ‘Keeping a Burmese woman’-and it was nof 
even true! But much use it would ever be to deny it. Ah, what damned, evil 
chance could have brought it to her ears? 

But as a matter of fact, it was no chance. It had a perfectly sound cause, 
which was also the cause of Mrs Lackersteen’s curious behaviour at the Club 
this evening. On the previous night, just before the earthquake, Mrs 
Lackersteen had been reading the Civil List. The Civil List (which tells you 
the exact income of every official in Burma) was a source of inexhaustible 
interest to her. She was in the middle of adding up the pay and allowances of a 
Conservator of Forests whom she had once met in Mandalay, when it occurred 
to her to look up the name of Lieutenant Verrall, who, she had heard from Mr 
Macregor, was arriving at Kyauktada tomorrow with a hundred Military 
Policemen. When she found the name, she saw in front of it two words that 
startled her almost out of her wits. 

The words were ‘The Honourable’! 

The Honourable \ Lieutenants the Honourable are rare anywhere, rare as 
diamonds in the Indian Army, rare as dodos in Burma. And when you are the 
aunt of the only marriageable young woman within fifty miles, and you hear 
that a lieutenant the Honourable is arriving no later than tomorrow- well! 
With dismay Mrs Lackersteen remembered that Elizabeth was out in the 
garden with Flory-that drunken wretch Flory, whose pay was barely seven 
hundred rupees a month, and who, it was only too probable, was already 
proposing to her! She hastened immediately to call Elizabeth inside, but at this 
moment the earthquake intervened. However, on the way home there was an 
opportunity to speak. Mrs Lackersteen laid her hand affectionately on 
Elizabeth’s arm and said in the tenderest voice she had ever succeeded in 
producing: 

‘Of course you know, Elizabeth dear, that Flory is keeping a Burmese 
woman?’ 



Burmese Days 193 

For a moment this deadly charge actually failed to explode. Elizabeth was so 
new to the ways of the country that the remark made no impression on her. It 
sounded hardly more significant than ‘keeping a parrot’. 

‘Keeping a Burmese woman? What for?’ 

‘What /or? My dear! what does a man keep a woman for?’ 

And, of course, that was that. 

For a long time Flory remained standing by the river bank. The moon was 
up, mirrored in the water like a broad shield of electron. The coolness of the 
outer air had changed Flory’s mood. He had not even the heart to be angry any 
longer. For he had perceived, with the deadly self-knowledge and self-loathing 
that come to one at such a time, that what had happened served him perfectly 
right. For a moment it seemed to him that an endless procession of Burmese 
women, a regiment of ghosts, were marching past him in the moonlight. 
Heavens, what numbers of them! A thousand-no, but a full hundred at the 
least. ‘Eyes right!’ he thought despondently. Their heads turned towards him, 
but they had no faces, only featureless discs. He remembered a blue longyi 
here, a pair of ruby ear-rings there, but hardly a face or a name. The gods are 
just and of our pleasant vices (pleasant, indeed!) make instruments to plague 
us. He had dirtied himself beyond redemption, and this was his just 
punishment. 

He made his way slowly through the croton bushes and round the 
clubhouse. He was too saddened to feel the full pain of the disaster yet. It 
would begin hurting, as all deep wounds do, long afterwards. As he passed 
through the gate something stirred the leaves behind him. He started. There 
was a whisper of harsh Burmese syllables. 

‘Pike-san pay-like ! Pike-san pay-like !’ 

He turned sharply. The ‘ pike-san pay-like 3 (‘Give me the money’) was 
repeated. He saw a woman standing under the shadow of the gold mohur tree. 
It was Ma Hla May. She stepped out into the moonlight warily, with a hostile 
air, keeping her distance as though afraid that he would strike her. Her face 
was coated with powder, sickly white in the moon, and it looked as ugly as a 
skull, and defiant. 

She had given him a shock, ‘What the devil are you doing here?’ he said 
angrily in English. 

‘ Pike-san pay -like /’ 

‘What money? What do you mean? Why are you following me about like 
this?’ 

‘ Pike-san pay-like /’ she repeated almost in a scream. ‘The money you 
promised me, thakin. You said you would give me more money. I want it now, 
this instant!’ 

‘How can I give it you now? You shall have it next month. I have given you a 
hundred and fifty rupees already.’ 

To his alarm she began shrieking ‘ Pike-san pay-likeV and a number of 
similar phrases almost at the top of her voice. She seemed on the verge of 
hysterics. The volume of noise that she produced was startling. 

‘Be quiet! They’ll hear you in the Club!’ he exclaimed, and was instantly 



i$4 Burmese Days 

sorry for putting the idea into her head. 

‘Aha! Now I know what will frighten you! Give me the money this instant, or 
I will scream for help and bring them all out here Quick, now, or I begin 
screaming!’ 

‘You bitch!’ he said, and took a step towards her. She sprang nimbly out of 
reach, whipped off her slipper, and stood defying him. 

‘Be quick! Fifty rupees now and the rest tomorrow. Out with it! Or I give a 
scream they can hear as far as the bazaar!’ 

Flory swore. This was not the time for such a scene. Finally he took out his 
pocket-book, found twenty-five rupees in it, and threw them on to the ground. 
Ma Hla May pounced on the notes and counted them. 

‘I said fifty rupees, thakvn!’ 

‘How can I give it you if I haven’t got it? Do you think I carry hundreds of 
rupees about with me?’ 

‘I said fifty rupees!’ 

‘Oh, get out of my way!’ he said in English, and pushed past her. 

But the wretched woman would not leave him alone. She began to follow 
him up the road like a disobedient dog, screaming out c Pike-san pay-like! Pike- 
san pay-like!’ as though mere noise could bring the money into existence. He 
hurried, partly to draw her away from the Club, partly in hopes of shaking her 
off, but she seemed ready to follow him as far as the house if necessary. After a 
while he could not stand it any longer, and he turned to drive her back. 

‘Go away this instant! If you follow me any farther you shall never have 
another anna.’ 

‘Pike-san pay-like!’ 

‘You fool,’ he said, ‘what good is this doing? How can I give you the money 
when I have not another pice on me?’ 

‘That is a likely story!’ 

He felt helplessly in his pockets. He was so wearied that he would have given 
her anything to be rid of her. His fingers encountered his cigarette-case, which 
was of gold. He took it out. 

‘Here, if I give you this will you go away? You can pawn it for thirty rupees.’ 

Ma Hla May seemed to consider, then said sulkily, ‘Give it me.’ 

He threw the cigarette-case on to the grass beside the road. She grabbed it 
and immediately sprang back clutching it to her ingyi , as though afraid that he 
would take it away again. He turned and made for the house, thanking God to 
be out of the sound of her voice. The cigarette-case was the same one that she 
had stolen ten days ago. 

At the gate he looked back, Ma Hla May was still standing at the bottom of 
the hill, a greyish figurine in the moonlight. She must have watched him up the 
hill like a dog watching a suspicious stranger out of sight. It was queer. The 
thought crossed his mind, as it had a few days earlier when she sent him the 
blackmailing letter, that her behaviour had been curious and unlike herself. 
She was showing a tenacity of which he would never have thought her 
capabie-almost, indeed, as though someone else were egging her on. 



i8 


After the row overnight Ellis was looking forward to a week of baiting Flory. 
He had nicknamed him Nancy-short for nigger’s Nancy Boy, but the women 
did not know that-and was already inventing wild scandals about him. Ellis 
always invented scandals about anyone with whom he had 
quarrelled-scandals which grew, by repeated embroideries, into a species of 
saga. Flory ’s incautious remark that Dr Veraswami was a ‘damned good 
fellow’ had swelled before long into a whole Daily Worker-fu\ of blasphemy 
and sedition. 

‘On my honour, Mrs Lackersteen,’ said Ellis-Mrs Lackersteen had taken a 
sudden dislike to Flory after discovering the great secret about Verrall, and she 
was quite ready to listen to Ellis’s tales-‘on my honour, if you’d been there last 
night and heard the things that man Flory was saying-well, it’d have made you 
shiver in your shoes!’ 

‘Really! You know, I always thought he had such curious ideas. What has he 
been talking about now? Not Socialism , I hope?’ 

‘Worse.’ 

There were long recitals. However, to Ellis’s disappointment, Flory had not 
stayed in Kyauktada to be baited. He had gone back to camp the day after his 
dismissal by Elizabeth. Elizabeth heard most of the scandalous tales about 
him. She understood his character perfectly now. She understood why it was 
that he had so often bored her and irritated her. He was a highbrow-her 
deadliest word-a highbrow, to be classed with Lenin, A. J. Cook and the dirty 
little poets in the Montparnasse cafds. She could have forgiven him even his 
Burmese mistress more easily than that. Flory wrote to her three days later; a 
weak, stilted letter, which he sent by hand-his camp was a day’s march from 
Kyauktada. Elizabeth did not answer. 

It was lucky for Flory that at present he was too busy to have time to think. 
The whole camp was at sixes and sevens since his long absence. Nearly thirty 
coolies were missing, the sick elephant was worse than ever, and a vast pile of 
teak logs which should have been sent off ten days earlier were still waiting 
because the engine would not work. Flory, a fool about machinery, straggled 
with the bowels of the engine until he was black with grease and Ko S’la told 
him sharply that white men ought not to do ‘coolie- work’. The engine was 
finally persuaded to ran, or at least to totter. The sick elephant was discovered 
to be suffering from tapeworms. As for the coolies, they had deserted because 
their supply of opium had been cut off-they would not stay in the jungle 



r$6 Burmese Days 

without opium, which they took as a prophylactic against fever. U Po Kyin, 
willing to do Flory a bad turn, had caused the Excise Officers to make a raid 
and seize the opium. Flory wrote to Dr Veraswami, asking for his help. The 
doctor sent back a quantity of opium, illegally procured, medicine for the 
elephant and a careful letter of instructions. A tapeworm measuring twenty- 
one feet was extracted. Flory was busy twelve hours a day. In the evening if 
there was no more to do he would plunge into the jungle and walk and walk 
until the sweat stung his eyes and his knees were bleeding from the briers. The 
nights were his bad time. The bitterness of what had happened was sinking 
into him, as it usually does, by slow degrees. 

Meanwhile, several days had passed and Elizabeth had not yet seen Verrall 
at less than a hundred yards’ distance. It had been a great disappointment 
when he had not appeared at the Club on the evening of his arrival. Mr 
Lackersteen was really quite angry when he discovered that he had been 
hounded into his dinner-jacket for nothing. Next morning Mrs Lackersteen 
made her husband send an officious note to the i&z&bungalow, inviting Verrall 
to the Club; there was no answer, however. More days passed, and Verrall 
made no move to join in the local society. He had even neglected his official 
calls, not even bothering to present himself at Mr Macgregor’s office. The 
du&bungalow was at the other end of the town, near the station, and he had 
made himself quite comfortable there There is a rule that one must vacate a 
daAbungalow after a stated number of days, but Verrall peaceably ignored it. 
The Europeans only saw him at morning and evening on the maidan. On the 
second day after his arrival fifty of his men turned out with sickles and cleared a 
large patch of the maidan, after which Verrall was to be seen galloping to and 
fro, practising polo strokes. He took not the smallest notice of any Europeans 
who passed down the road. Westfield and Ellis were furious, and even Mr 
Macgregor said that Verrall’s behaviour was ‘ungracious’. They would all 
have fallen at the feet of a lieutenant the Honourable if he had shown the 
smallest courtesy; as it was, everyone except the two women detested him from 
the start. It is always so with titled people, they are either adored or hated. If 
they accept one it is charming simplicity, if they ignore one it is loathsome 
snobbishness; there are no half-measures. 

Verrall was the youngest son of a peer, and not at all rich, but by the method 
of seldom paying a bill until a writ was issued against him, he managed to keep 
himself in the only things he seriously cared about: clothes and horses. He had 
come out to India in a British cavalry regiment, and exchanged into the Indian 
Army because it was cheaper and left him greater freedom for polo. After two 
years his debts were so enormous that he entered the Burma Military Police, in 
which it was notoriously possible to save money; however, he detested 
Burma-it is no country for a horseman-and he had already applied to go back 
to his regiment. He was the kind of soldier who can get exchanges when he 
wants them. Meanwhile, he was only to be in Kyauktada for a month, and he 
had no intention of mixing himself up with all the petty sahiblog of the district. 
He knew the society of those small Burma stations-a nasty, poodle-faking, 
horseless riffraff. He despised them. 



Burmese Days 197 

They were not the only people whom Verrall despised, however. His various 
contempts would take a long time to catalogue in detail. He despised the entire 
non-military population of India, a few famous polo players excepted. He 
despised the entire Army as well, except the cavalry. He despised all Indian 
regiments, infantry and cavalry alike. It was true that he himself belonged to a 
native regiment, but that was only for his own convenience. He took no 
interest in Indians, and his Urdu consisted mainly of swear-words, with all the 
verbs in the third person singular. His Military Policemen he looked on as no 
better than coolies ‘Christ, what God-forsaken swine!’ he was often heard to 
mutter as he moved down the ranks inspecting, with the old subahdar carrying 
his sword behind him. Verrall had even been in trouble once for his outspoken 
opinions on native troops. It was at a review, and Verrall was among the group 
of officers standing behind the general. An Indian infantry regiment 
approached for the march-past. 

‘The — Rifles,’ somebody said. 

‘And look at it,’ said Verrall in his surly boy’s voice. 

The white-haired colonel of the — Rifles was standing near. He flushed to 
the neck, and reported Verrall to the general. Verrall was reprimanded, but the 
general, a British Army officer himself, did not rub it in very hard. Somehow, 
nothing very serious ever did happen to Verrall, however offensive he made 
himself. Up and down India, wherever he was stationed, he left behind him a 
trail of insulted people, neglected duties and unpaid bills. Yet the disgraces 
that ought to have fallen on him never did. He bore a charmed life, and it was 
not only the handle to his name that saved him. There was something in his eye 
before which duns, burra memsahibs and even colonels quailed. 

It was a disconcerting eye, pale blue and a little protuberant, but 
exceedingly clear. It looked you over, weighed you in the balance and found 
you wanting, in a single cold scrutiny of perhaps five seconds. If you were the 
right kind of man-that is, if you were a cavalry officer and a polo 
player-Verrall took you for granted and even treated you with a surly respect; 
if you were any other type of man whatever, he despised you so utterly that he 
could not have hidden it even if he would. It did not even make any difference 
whether you were rich or poor, for in the social sense he was not more than 
normally a snob. Of course, like all sons of rich families, he thought poverty 
disgusting and that poor people are poor because they prefer disgusting habits. 
But he despised soft living. Spending, or rather owing, fabulous sums on 
clothes, he yet lived almost as ascetically as a monk. He exercised himself 
ceaselessly and brutally, rationed his drink and his cigarettes, slept on a camp 
bed (in silk pyjamas) and bathed in cold water in the bitterest winter. 
Horsemanship and physical fitness were the only gods he knew. The stamp of 
hoofs on the maidan, the strong, poised feeling of his body, wedded centaur- 
like to the saddle, the polo-stick springy in his hand-these were his religion, 
the breath of his life. The Europeans in Burma-boozing, womanizing, yellow- 
faced loafers-made him physically sick when he thought of their habits. As for 
social duties of all descriptions, he called them poodle-faking and ignored 
them. Women he abhorred. In his view they were a -kind of siren whose one 



j$8 Burmese Days 

aim was to lure men away from polo and enmesh them in tea-fights and tennis- 
parties. He was not, however, quite proof against women. He was young, and 
women of nearly all kinds threw themselves at his head; now and again he 
succumbed. But his lapses soon disgusted him, and he was too callous when 
the pinch came to have any difficulty about escaping. He had had perhaps a 
dozen such escapes during his two years in India. 

A whole week went by. Elizabeth had not even succeeded in making 
Verrall’s acquaintance. It was so tantalizing! Every day, morning and evening, 
she and her aunt walked down to the Club and back again, past the maidan; 
and there was Verrall, hitting the polo-balls the sepoys threw for him, ignoring 
the two women utterly. So near and yet so far! What made it even worse was 
that neither woman would have considered it decent to speak of the matter 
directly. One evening the polo-ball, struck too hard, came swishing through 
the grass and rolled across the road in front of them. Elizabeth and her aunt 
stopped involuntarily. But it was only a sepoy who ran to fetch the ball. Verrall 
had seen the women and kept his distance. 

Next morning Mrs Lackersteen paused as they came out of the gate. She had 
given up riding in her rickshaw lately. At the bottom of the maidan the 
Military Policemen were drawn up, a dust-coloured rank with bayonets 
glittering. Verrall was facing them, but not in uniform-he seldom put on his 
uniform for morning parade, not thinking it necessary with mere Military 
Policemen. The two women were looking at everything except Verrall, and at 
the same time, in some manner, were contriving to look at him. 

‘The wretched thing is, 5 said Mrs Lackersteen-this was & propos de bottes , 
but the subject needed no introduction- ‘the wretched thing is that I’m afraid 
your uncle simply must go back to camp before long. 5 

‘Must he really? 5 

‘I’m afraid so. It is so hateful in camp at this time of year! Oh, those 
mosquitoes! 5 

‘Couldn’t he stay a bit longer? A week, perhaps? 5 

‘I don’t see how he can. He’s been nearly a month in headquarters now. The 
firm would be furious if they heard of it. And of course both of us will have to 
go with him. Such a bore! The mosquitoes- simply terrible!’ 

Terrible indeed! To have to go away before Elizabeth had so much as said 
how-do-you-do to Verrall! But they would certainly have to go if Mr 
Lackersteen went. It would never do to leave him to himself. Satan finds some 
mischief still, even in the jungle. A ripple like fire ran down the line of sepoys; 
they were unfixing bayonets before marching away. The dusty rank turrifed 
left, saluted, and marched off in columns of fours. The orderlies were coming 
from the police lines with the ponies and polo-sticks, Mrs Lackersteen took a 
heroic decision. 

T think,’ she said, ‘we’ll take a short-cut across the maidan. It’s so much 
quicker than going right round by the road.’ 

It was quicker by about fifty yards, but no one ever went that way on foot, 
because of the grass-seeds that got into one’s stockings. Mrs Lackersteen 
plunged boldly into the grass, and then, dropping even the pretence of making 



Burmese Days 199 

for the Club, took a bee-line for Verrall, Elizabeth following. Either woman 
would have died on the rack rather than admit that she was doing anything but 
take a short-cut. Verrall saw them coming, swore, and reined in his pony He 
could not very well cut them dead now that they were coming openly to accost 
him. The damned cheek of these women! He rode slowly towards them with a 
sulky expression on his face, chivvying the polo-ball with small strokes. 

‘Good morning, Mr Verrall!’ Mrs Lackersteen called out in a voice of 
saccharine, twenty yards away 

‘Morning!’ he returned surlily, having seen her face and set her down as one 
of the usual scraggy old boiling-fowls of an Indian station. 

The next moment Elizabeth came level with her aunt. She had taken off her 
spectacles and was swinging her Terai hat on her hand. What did she care for 
sunstroke? She was perfectly aware of the prettiness of her cropped hair. A 
puff of wind-oh, those blessed breaths of wind, coming from nowhere in the 
stifling hot-weather days!-had caught her cotton frock and blown it against 
her, showing the outline of her body, slender and strong like a tree. Her sudden 
appearance beside the older, sun-scorched woman was a revelation to Verrall. 
He started so that the Arab mare felt it and would have reared on her hind legs, 
and he had to tighten the rein. He had not known until this moment, not 
having bothered to inquire, that there were any young women in Kyauktada. 

‘My niece,’ Mrs Lackersteen said. 

He did not answer, but he had thrown away the polo-stick, and he took off 
his topi. For a moment he and Elizabeth remained gazing at one another. Their 
fresh faces were unmarred in the pitiless light. The grass-seeds were tickling 
Elizabeth’s shins so that it was agony, and without her spectacles she could 
only see Verrall and his horse as a whitish blur. But she was happy, happy! Her 
heart bounded and the blood flowed into her face, dyeing it like a thin wash of 
aquarelle. The thought, ‘A peach, by Christ!’ moved almost fiercely through 
Verrall’s mind. The sullen Indians, holding the ponies’ heads, gazed curiously 
at the scene, as though the beauty of the two young people had made its 
impression even on them. 

Mrs Lackersteen broke the silence, which had lasted half a minute. 

‘You know, Mr Verrall,’ she said somewhat archly, '‘we think it rather 
unkind of you to have neglected us poor people all this time. When we’re so 
pining for a new face at the Club.’ 

He was still looking at Elizabeth when he answered, but the change in his 
voice was remarkable. 

‘I’ve been meaning to come for some days. Been so fearfully busy-getting 
my men into their quarters and all that. I’m sorry,’ he added-he was not in the 
habit of apologizing, but really, he had decided, this girl was rather an 
exceptional bit of stuff-Tm sorry about not answering your note.’ 

‘Oh, not at all! We quite understood. But we do hope we shall see you at the 
Club this evening! Because, you know,’ she concluded even more archly, ‘if 
you disappoint us any longer, we shall begin to think you rather a naughty 
young man!’ 

‘I’m sorry,’ he repeated. ‘I’ll be there this evening.’ 



200 Burmese Days 

There was not much more to be said, and the two women walked on to the 
Club. But they stayed barely five minutes. The grass-seeds were causing their 
shins such torment that they were obliged to hurry home and change their 
stockings at once. 

Verrall kept his promise and was at the Club that evening. He arrived a little 
earlier than the others, and he had made his presence thoroughly felt before 
being in the place five minutes. As Ellis entered the Club the old butler darted 
out of the card-room and waylaid him. He was in great distress, the tears 
rolling down his cheeks. 

‘Sir! Sir!’ 

‘What the devil’s the matter now!’ said Ellis. 

‘Sir! Sir! New master been beating me, sir!’ 

‘What?’ 

‘ Beating me sir!’ His voice rose on the ‘beating’ with a long tearful wail-‘be- 
e-e-eating!’ 

‘Beating you? Do you good. Who’s been beating you?’ 

‘New master, sir. Military Police sahib. Beating me with his foot, six-hereV 
He rubbed himself behind. 

‘Hell!’ said Ellis. 

He went into the lounge. Verrall was reading the Field, and invisible except 
for Palm Beach trouser-ends and two lustrous sooty-brown shoes. He did not 
trouble to stir at hearing someone else come into the room. Ellis halted. 

‘Here, you-what’s your name-Verrall!’ 

‘What?’ 

‘Have you been kicking our butler?’ 

Verrall’s sulky blue eye appeared round the comer of the Field , like the eye 
of a crustacean peering round a rock. 

‘What?’ he repeated shortly. 

‘I said, have you been kicking our bloody butler?’ 

‘Yes.’ 

‘Then what the hell do you mean by it?’ 

‘Beggar gave me his lip. I sent him for a whisky and soda, and he brought it 
warm. I told him to put ice in it, and he wouldn’t-talked some bloody rot 
about saving the last pieces of ice. So I kicked his bottom. Serve him right.’ 

Ellis turned quite grey. He was furious. The butler was a piece of Club 
property and not to be kicked by strangers. But what most angered Ellis was 
the thought that Verrall quite possibly suspected him of being sorry for the 
butler-in fact, of disapproving of kicking as such. 

‘Serve him right? I dare say it bloody well did serve him right. But what in 
hell’s that got to do with it? Who are you to come kicking our servants?’ 

‘Bosh, my good chap. Needed kicking. You’ve let your servants get out of 
hand here.’ 

‘You damned, insolent young tick, what’s it got to do with you if he needed 
kicking? You’re not even a member of this Club. It’s our job to kick the 
servants, not yours.’ 

Verrall lowered the Field and brought his other eye into play. His surly voice 



Burmese Days 201 

did not change its tone. He never lost his temper with a European, it was never 
necessary. 

‘My good chap, if anyone gives me lip I kick his bottom. Do you want me to 
kick yours?’ 

All the fire went out of Ellis suddenly. He was not afraid, he had never been 
afraid in his life; only, Verrall’s eye was too much for him. That eye could 
make you feel as though you were under Niagara! The oaths wilted on Ellis’s 
lips; his voice almost deserted him. He said querulously and even plaintively: 

‘But damn it, he was quite right not to give you the last bit of ice. Do you think 
we only buy ice for you? We can only get the stuff twice a week in this place.’ 

‘Rotten bad management on your part, then,’ said Verrall, and retired 
behind the Field , content to let the matter drop. 

Ellis was helpless. The calm way in which Verrall went back to his paper, 
quite genuinely forgetting Ellis’s existence, was maddening. Should he not 
give the young swab a good, rousing kick? 

But somehow, the kick was never given. Verrall had earned many kicks m 
his life, but he had never received one and probably never would. Ellis seeped 
helplessly back to the card-room, to work off his feelings on the butler, leaving 
Verrall in possession of the lounge. 

As Mr Macgregor entered the Club gate he heard the sound of music. 
Yellow chinks of lantern-light showed through the creeper that covered the 
tennis-screen. Mr Macgregor was in a happy mood this evening. He had 
promised himself a good, long talk with Miss Lackersteen-such an 
exceptionally intelligent girl, that!-and he had a most interesting anecdote to 
tell her (as a matter of fact, it had already seen the light in one of those little 
articles of his in Blackwood’s ) about a dacoity that had happened in Sagaing in 
1913. She would love to hear it, he knew. He rounded the tennis-screen 
expectantly. On the court, in the mingled light of the waning moon and of 
lanterns slung among the trees, Verrall and Elizabeth were dancing. The 
chokras had brought out chairs and a table for the gramophone, and round 
these the other Europeans were sitting or standing. As Mr Macgregor halted at 
the corner of the court, Verrall and Elizabeth circled round and glided past 
him, barely a yard away. They were dancing very close together, her body bent 
backwards under his. Neither noticed Mr Macgregor. 

Mr Macgregor made his way round the court. A chilly, desolate feeling had 
taken possession of his entrails. Good-bye, then, to his talk with Miss 
Lackersteen! It was an effort to screw his face into its usual facetious good- 
humour as he came up to the table. 

‘A Terpsichorean evening!’ he remarked in a voice that was doleful in spite 
of himself. 

No one answered. They were all watching the pair on the tennis court. 
Utterly oblivious of the others, Elizabeth and Verrall glided round and round, 
round and round, their, shoes sliding easily on the slippery concrete. Verrall 
danced as he rode, with matchless grace. The gramophone was playing ‘Show 
Me the Way to Go Home,’ which was then going round the world like a 
pestilence and had got as far as Burma: 



202 Burmese Days 

‘Show me the way to go home, 

I’m tired an’ I wanna go to bed, 

I had a little drink ’bout an hour ago. 

An’ it’s gone right to my head’’ etc 

The dreary, depressing trash floated out among the shadowy trees and the 
streaming scents of flowers, over and over again, for Mrs Lackersteen was 
putting the gramophone needle back to the start when it neared the centre. 
The moon climbed higher, very yellow, looking, as she rose from the murk of 
dark clouds at the horizon, like a sick woman creeping out of bed. Verrall and 
Elizabeth danced on and on, indefatigably, a pale voluptuous shape in the 
gloom. They moved in perfect unison like some single animal. Mr Macgregor, 
Ellis, Westfield and Mr Lackersteen stood watching them, their hands in their 
pockets, finding nothing to say. The mosquitoes came nibbling at their ankles. 
Someone called for drinks, but the whisky was like ashes in their mouths. The 
bowels of all four older men were twisted with bitter envy. 

Verrall did not ask Mrs Lackersteen for a dance, nor, when he and Elizabeth 
finally sat down, did he take any notice of the other Europeans. He merely 
monopolized Elizabeth for half an hour more, and then, with a brief good night 
to the Lackersteens and not a word to anyone else, left the Club. The long 
dance with Verrall had left Elizabeth in a kind of dream. He had asked her to 
come out riding with him! He was going to lend her one of his ponies! She 
never even noticed that Ellis, angered by her behaviour, was doing his best to 
be openly rude. It was late when the Lackersteens got home, but there was no 
sleep yet for Elizabeth or her aunt. They were feverishly at work till midnight, 
shortening a pair of Mrs Lackersteen’s jodhpurs, and letting out the calves, to 
fit Elizabeth. 

‘I hope, dear, you can ride a horse?’ said Mrs Lackersteen. 

‘Oh, of course! I’ve ridden ever such a lot, at home.’ 

She had ridden perhaps a dozen times in all, when she was sixteen. No 
matter, she would manage somehow! She would have ridden a tiger, if Verrall 
were to accompany her. 

When at last the jodhpurs were finished and Elizabeth had tried them on, 
Mrs Lackersteen sighed to see her. She looked ravishing in jodhpurs, simply 
ravishing! And to think that in only a day or two they had got to go back to 
camp, for weeks, months perhaps, leaving Kyauktada and this most desirable 
young man! The pity of it! As they moved to go upstairs Mrs Lackersteen 
paused at the door. It had come into her head to make a great and painful 
sacrifice. She took Elizabeth by the shoulders and kissed her with a more real 
affection than she had ever shown. 

‘My dear, it would be such a shame for you to go away from Kyauktada just 
now!’ 

Tt would, rather.’ 

‘Then I’ll tell you what, dear. We won't go back to that' horrid jungle! Your 
uncle shall go alone. You and I shall stay in Kyauktada.’ 



19 


The heat was growing worse and worse. April was nearly over* but there was 
no hope of rain for another three weeks, five weeks it might be. Even the lovely 
transient dawns were spoiled by the thought of the long, blinding hours to 
come, when one’s head would ache and the glare would penetrate through 
every covering and glue up one’s eyelids with restless sleep. No one, Oriental 
or European, could keep awake in the heat of the day without a struggle; at 
night, on the other hand, with the howling dogs and the pools of sweat that 
collected and tormented one’s prickly heat, no one could sleep. The 
mosquitoes at the Club were so bad that sticks of incense had to be kept 
burning in all the corners, and the women sat with their legs in pillowslips. 
Only Verrall and Elizabeth were indifferent to the heat. They were young and 
their blood was fresh, and Verrall was too stoical and Elizabeth too happy to 
pay any attention to the climate. 

There was much bickering and scandal-mongering at the Club these days. 
Verrall had put everyone’s nose out of joint. He had taken to coming to the 
Club for -an hour or two in the evenings, but he ignored the other members, 
refused the drinks they offered him, and answered attempts at conversation 
with surly monosyllables. He would sit under the punkah in the chair that had 
once been sacred to Mrs Lackersteen, reading such of the papers as interested 
him, until Elizabeth came, when he would dance and talk with her for an hour 
or two and then make off without so much as a good-night to anybody. 
Meanwhile Mr Lackersteen was alone in his camp, and, according to the 
rumours which drifted back to Kyauktada, consoling loneliness with quite a 
miscellany of Burmese women. 

Elizabeth and Verrall went out riding together almost every evening now. 
Verrall’s mornings, after parade, were sacred to polo practice, but he had 
decided that it was worth while giving up the evenings to Elizabeth. She took 
naturally to riding, just as she had to shooting; she even had the assurance to 
tell Verrall that she had ‘hunted quite a lot’ at home. He saw at a glance that she 
was lying, but at least she did not ride so badly as to be a nuisance to him. 

They used to ride up the red road into the jungle, ford the stream by the big 
pyinkado tree covered with orchids, and then follow the narrow cart-track, 
where the dust was soft and the horses could gallop. It was stifling hot in the 
dusty jungle, and there were always mutterings of faraway, rainless thunder. 
Small martins flitted round the horses, keeping pace with them, to hawk for 
the flies their hooves turned up. Elizabeth rode the bay pony, Verrall the 



204 Burmese Days 

white. On the way home they would walk their sweat-dark horses abreast, so 
close sometimes his knee brushed against hers, and talk. Verrall could drop his 
offensive manner and talk amicably enough when he chose, and he did choose 
with Elizabeth. 

Ah, the joy of those rides together! The joy of being on horseback and in the 
world of horses-the world of hunting and racing, polo and pigsticking! If 
Elizabeth had loved Verrall for nothing else, she would have loved him for 
bringing horses into her life. She tormented him to talk about horses as once 
she had tormented Flory to talk about shooting. Verrall was no talker, it was 
true. A few gruff, jerky sentences about polo and pigsticking, and a catalogue 
of Indian stations and the names of regiments, were the best he could do. And 
yet somehow the little he said could thrill Elizabeth as all Flory’ s talk had 
never done. The mere sight of him on horseback was more evocative than any 
words. An aura of horsemanship and soldiering surrounded him. In his tanned 
face and his hard, straight body Elizabeth saw all the romance, the splendid 
panache of a cavalryman’s life. She saw the North-West Frontier and the 
Cavalry Club -she saw the polo grounds and the parched barrack yards, and 
the brown squadrons of horsemen galloping with their long lances poised and 
the trains of their pagns streaming; she heard the bugle-calls and the jingle of 
spurs, and the regimental bands playing outside the messrooms while the 
officers sat at dinner in their stiff, gorgeous uniforms. How splendid it was, 
that equestrian world, how splendid! And it was her world, she belonged to it, 
she had been born of it. These days, she lived, thought, dreamed horses, 
almost like Verrall himself. The time came when she not only told her 
taradiddle about having ‘hunted quite a lot’, she even came near believing it. 

In every possible way they got on so well together. He never bored her and 
fretted her as Flory had done. (As a matter of fact, she had almost forgotten 
Flory, these days; when she thought of him, it was for some reason always his 
birthmark that she remembered.) It was a bond between them that Verrall 
detested anything ‘highbrow’ even more than she did. He told her once that he 
had not read a book since he was eighteen, and that indeed he ‘loathed’ books; 
‘except, of course, Jorrocks and all that’. On the evening of their third or 
fourth ride they were parting at the Lackersteens’ gate. Verrall had 
successfully resisted all Mrs Lackersteen’s invitations to meals; he had not yet 
set foot inside the Lackersteens’ house, and he did not intend to do so. As the 
syce was taking Elizabeth’s pony, Verrall said: 

‘I tell you what. Next time we come out you shall ride Belinda. I’ll ride the 
chestnut. I think you’ve got on well enough not to go and cut Belinda’s mouth 
up.’ 

Belinda was the Arab mare. Verrajl had owned her two years, and till this 
moment he had never once allowed anyone else to mount her, not even the 
syce. It was the greatest favour that he could imagine. And so perfectly did 
Elizabeth appreciate Verrall’s point of view that she understood the greatness 
of the favour, and was thankful. 

The next evening, as they rode home side by side, Verrall put his arm round 
Elizabeth’s shoulder, lifted her out of the saddle and pulled her against him. 



Burmese Days 20s 

He was very strong. He dropped the bridle, and with his free hand, lifted her 
face up to meet his; their mouths met. For a moment he held her so, then 
lowered her to the ground and slipped from his horse. They stood embraced, 
their thin, drenched shirts pressed together, the two bridles held in the crook 
of his arm. 

It was about the same time that Flory, twenty miles away, decided to come 
back to Kyauktada. He was standing at the jungle’s edge by the bank of a 
dried-up stream, where he had walked to tire himself, watching some tiny, 
nameless finches eating the seeds of the tall grasses. The cocks were chrome- 
yellow, the hens like hen sparrows. Too tiny to bend the stalks, they came 
whirring towards them, seized them in midflight and bore them to the ground 
by their own weight. Flory watched the birds incuriously, and almost hated 
them because they could light no spark of interest in him. In his idleness he 
flung his dah at them, scaring them away. If she were here, if she were here 1 
Everything-birds, trees, flowers, everything-was deadly and meaningless 
because she was not here. As the days passed the knowledge that he had lost 
her had grown surer and more actual until it poisoned every moment. 

He loitered a little way into the jungle, flicking at creepers with his dah. His 
limbs felt slack and leaden. He noticed a wild vanilla plant trailing over a bush, 
and bent down to sniff at its slender, fragrant pods. The scent brought him a 
feeling of staleness and deadly ennui. Alone, alone, in the sea of life enisled! 
The pain was so great that he struck his fist against a tree, jarring his arm and 
splitting two knuckles. He must go back to Kyauktada. It was folly, for barely a 
fortnight had passed since the scene between them, and his only chance was to 
give her time to forget it. Still, he must go back. He could not stay any longer in 
this deadly place, alone with his thoughts among the endless, mindless leaves. 

A happy thought occurred to him. He could take Elizabeth the leopard-skin 
that was being cured for her in the jail It would be a pretext for seeing her, and 
when one comes bearing gifts one is generally listened to. This time he would 
not let her cut him short without a word. He would explain, extenuate-make 
her realize that she had been unjust to him. It was not right that she should 
condemn him because of Ma Hla May, whom he had turned out of doors for 
Elizabeth’s own sake. Surely she must forgive him when she heard the truth of 
the story? And this time she should hear it; he would force her to listen to him if 
he had to hold her by the arms while he did it. 

He went back the same evening. It was a twenty-mile journey, by rutted 
cart-tracks, but Flory decided to march by night, giving the reason that it was 
cooler. The servants almost mutinied at the idea of a night-march, and at the 
very last moment old Sammy collapsed in a semi-genuine fit and had to be 
plied with gin before he could start. It was a moonless night. They made their 
way by the light of lanterns, in which Flo’s eyes gleamed like emeralds and 
the bullocks’ eyes like moonstones. When the sun was up the servants 
halted to gather sticks and cook breakfast, but Flory was in a fever to be at 
Kyauktada, and he hurried ahead. He had no feeling of tiredness. The 
thought of the leopard-skin had filled him with extravagant hopes. He 
crossed the glittering river by sampan and went straight to Dr Veraswami’s 



206 Burmese Days 

bungalow, getting there about ten. 

The doctor invited him to breakfast, and- having shooed the women into 
some suitable hiding-place-took him into his own bath-room so that he could 
wash and shave. At breakfast the doctor was very excited and full of 
denunciations of ‘the crocodile’; for it appeared that the pseudo-rebellion was 
now on the point of breaking out. It was not till after breakfast that Flory had 
an opportunity to mention the leopard-skin. 

‘Oh, by the way, doctor. What about that skin I sent to the Jail to be cured? Is 
it done yet?’ 

‘Ah-’ said the doctor in a slightly disconcerted manner, rubbing his nose. 
He went inside the house-they were breakfasting on the veranda, for the 
doctor’s wife had protested violently against Flory being brought indoors-and 
came back in a moment with the skin rolled up in a bundle. 

‘Ass a matter of fact-’ he began, unrolling it. 

‘Oh, doctor!’ 

The skin had been utterly ruined. It was as stiff as cardboard, with the 
leather cracked and the fur discoloured and even rubbed off in patches. It also 
stank abominably. Instead of being cured, it had been converted into a piece of 
rubbish. 

‘Oh, doctor! What a mess they’ve made of it! How the devil did it happen?’ 
‘I am so sorry, my friend! I wass about to apologize. It wass the best we 
could do. There iss no one at the jail who knows how to cure skins now.’ 
‘But, damn it, that convict used to cure them so beautifully!’ 

‘Ah, yes. But he iss gone from us these three weeks, alas.’ 

‘Gone? I thought he was doing seven years?’ 

‘What? Did you not hear, my friend? I thought you knew who it wass that 
used to cure the skins. It was Nga Shwe O.’ 

‘Nga Shwe O?’ 

‘The dacoit who escaped with U Po Kyin’s assistance.’ 

‘Oh, hell!’ 

The mishap had daunted him dreadfully. Nevertheless, in the afternoon, 
having bathed and put on a clean suit, he went up to the Lackersteens’ house, 
at about four. It was very early to call, but he wanted to make sure of catching 
Elizabeth before she went down to the Club. Mrs Lackersteen, who had been 
asleep and was not prepared for visitors, received him with an ill grace, not 
even asking him to sit down. 

‘I’m afraid Elizabeth isn’t down yet. She’s dressing to go out riding. 
Wouldn’t it be better if you left a message?’ 

‘I’d like to see her, if you don’t mind. I’ve brought her the skin of that 
leopard we shot together.’ 

Mrs Lackersteen left him standing up in the drawing-room, feeling lumpish 
and abnormally large as one does at such times. However, she fetched 
Elizabeth, taking the opportunity of whispering to her outside the door: ‘Get 
rid of that dreadful man as soon as you can, dear. I can’t bear him about the 
house at this time of day.’ 

As Elizabeth entered the room Flory’s heart pounded so violently that a 



Burmese Days 207 

reddish mist passed behind his eyes. She was wearing a silk shirt and jodhpurs, 
and she was a little sunburned. Even in his memory she had never been so 
beautiful. He quailed; on the instant he was lost-every scrap of his screwed-up 
courage had fled. Instead of stepping forward to meet her he actually backed 
away. There was a fearful crash behind him; he had upset an occasional table 
and sent a bowl of zinnias hurtling across the floor. 

T’m so sorry!’ he exclaimed in horror. 

‘Oh, not at alll Please don’t worry about it!’ 

She helped him to pick up the table, chattering all the while as gaily and 
easily as though nothing had happened: ‘You have been away a long time, Mr 
Flory! You’re quite a strangerl We’ve so missed you at the Club!’ etc., etc. She 
was italicizing every other word, with that deadly, glittering brightness that a 
woman puts on when she is dodging a moral obligation. He was terrified of her. 
He could not even look her in the face. She took up a box of cigarettes and 
offered him one, but he refused it. His hand was shaking too much to take it. 

‘I’ve brought you that skin,’ he said flatly. 

He unrolled it on the table they had just picked up. It looked so shabby and 
miserable that he wished he had never brought it. She came close to him to 
examine the skin, so close that her flower-like cheek was not a foot from his 
own, and he could feel the warmth of her body. So great was his fear of her that 
he stepped hurriedly away. And in the same moment she too stepped back with 
a wince of disgust, having caught the foul odour of the skin. It shamed him 
terribly. It was almost as though it had been himself and not the skin that 
stank. 

‘Thank you ever so much, Mr Flory!’ She had put another yard between 
herself and the skin. ‘Such a lovely big skin, isn’t it?’ 

‘It was, but they’ve spoiled it, I’m afraid.’ 

‘Oh no! I shall love having it! -Are you back in Kyauktada for long? How 
dreadfully hot it must have been in camp!’ 

‘Yes, it’s been very hot.’ 

For three minutes they actually talked of the weather. He was helpless. All 
that he had promised himself to say, all his arguments and pleadings, had 
withered in his throat. ‘You fool, you fool,’ he thought, ‘what are you doing? 
Did you come twenty miles for this? Go on, say what you came to say! Seize 
her in your arms; make her listen, kick her, beat her-anything sooner than let 
her choke you with this drivel!’ But it was hopeless, hopeless. Not a word could 
his tongue utter except futile trivialities. How could he plead or argue, when 
that bright easy air of hers, that dragged every word to the level of Club- 
chatter silenced him before he spoke? Where do they learn it, that dreadful tee- 
heeing brightness? In these brisk modem girls’ schools, no doubt. The piece of 
carrion on the table made him more ashamed every moment. He stood there 
almost voiceless, lumpishly ugly with his face yellow and creased after the 
sleepless night, and his birthmark like a smear of dirt. 

She got rid of him after a very few minutes. ‘And now, Mr Flory, if you don’t 
mind, I ought really- 

He mumbled rather than said, ‘Won’t you come out with me again some 



208 Burmese Days 

time? Walking, shooting-something?’ 

‘I have so little time nowadays! All my evenings seem to be full. This 
evening I’m going out riding. With Mr Verrall,’ she added. 

It was possible that she added that in order to wound him. This was the first 
that he had heard of her friendship with Verrall. He could not keep the dread, 
flat tone of envy out of his voice as he said: 

‘Do you go out riding much with Verrall?’ 

‘Almost every evening. He’s such a wonderful horseman! And he has 
absolute strings of polo ponies!’ 

‘Ah. And of course I have no polo ponies.’ 

It was the first thing he had said that even approached seriousness, and it did 
no more than offend her. However, she answered him with the same gay easy 
air as before, and then showed him out. Mrs Lackersteen came back to the 
drawing-room, sniffed the air, and immediately ordered the servants to take 
the reeking leopard-skin outside and burn it. 

Flory lounged at his garden gate, pretending to feed the pigeons. He could 
not deny himself the pain of seeing Elizabeth and Verrall start on their ride. 
How vulgarly, how cruelly she had behaved to him! It is dreadful when people 
will not even have the decency to quarrel. Presently Verrall rode up to the 
Lackersteens’ house on the white pony, with a syce riding the chestnut, then 
there was a pause, then they emerged together, Verrall on the chestnut pony, 
Elizabeth on the white, and trotted quickly up the hill. They were chattering 
and laughing, her silk-shirted shoulder very close to his. Neither looked 
towards Flory. 

When they had disappeared into the jungle, Flory still loafed in the garden. 
The glare was waning to yellow. The mali was at work grubbing up the English 
flowers, most of which had died, slain by too much sunshine, and planting 
balsams, cockscombs, and more zinnias. An hour passed, and a melancholy, 
earth-coloured Indian loitered up the drive, dressed in a loin-cloth and a 
salmon-pink pagri on which a washing-basket was balanced. He laid down his 
basket and salaamed to Flory. 

‘Who are you?’ 

‘Book- wallah, sahib.’ 

The book-wallah was an itinerant peddler of books who wandered from 
station to station throughout Upper Burma. His system of exchange was that 
for any book in his bundle you gave him four annas, and any other book. Not 
quite any book, however, for the book-wallah, though analphabetic, had 
learned to recognize and refuse a Bible. 

‘No, sahib,’ he would say plaintively, ‘no. This book (he would turn it over 
disapprovingly in his flat brown hands) this book with a black cover and gold 
letters— this one I cannot take. I know not how it is, but all sahibs are offering 
me this book, and none are taking it. What can it be that is in this black book? 
Some evil, undoubtedly.’ 

‘Turn out your trash,’ Flory said. 

He hunted among them for a good thriller-Edgar Wallace or Agatha 
Christie or something; anything to still the deadly restlessness that was at his 



Burmese Days 209 

heart. As he bent over the books he saw that both Indians were exclaiming and 
pointing towards the edge of the jungle. 

‘Dekko!’ said the mali m his plum-in-the-mouth voice. 

The two ponies were emerging from the jungle. But they were riderless. 
They came trotting down the hill with the silly guilty air of a horse that has 
escaped from its master, with the stirrups swinging and clashing under their 
bellies. 

Flory remained unconsciously clasping one of the books against his chest. 
Verrall and Elizabeth had dismounted. It was not an accident; by no effort of 
the mind could one imagine Verrall falling off his horse. They had 
dismounted, and the ponies had escaped. 

They had dismounted-for what? Ah, but he knew for what! It was not a 
question of suspecting; he knew. He could see the whole thing happening, in 
one of those hallucinations that are so perfect in detail, so vilely obscene, that 
they are past bearing. He threw the book violently down and made for the 
house, leaving the book-wallah disappointed. The servants heard him moving 
about indoors, and presently he called for a bottle of whisky. He had a drink 
and it did him no good. Then he filled a tumbler two-thirds full, added enough 
water to make it drinkable, and swallowed it. The filthy, nauseous dose was no 
sooner down his throat than he repeated it. He had done the same thing in 
camp once, years ago, when he was tortured by toothache and three hundred 
miles from a dentist. At seven Ko S’ la came in as usual to say that the bath- 
water was hot. Flory was lying in one of the long chairs, with his coat off and 
his shirt torn open at the throat. 

‘Your bath, thakm / said Ko S’la. 

Flory did not answer, and Ko S’la touched his arm, thinking him asleep 
Flory was much too drunk to move. The empty bottle had rolled across the 
floor, leaving a trail of whisky-drops behind it. Ko S’la called for Ba Pe and 
picked up the bottle, clicking his tongue. 

‘Just look at this! He has drunk more than three-quarters of a bottle!’ 

‘What, again? I thought he had given up drinking?’ 

‘It is that accursed woman, I suppose. Now we must carry him carefully. 
You take his heels, I’ll take his head. That’s right. Hoist him up!’ 

They carried Flory into the other room and laid him gently on the bed. 

‘Is he really going to marry this “Ingaleikma”?’ said Ba Pe. 

‘Heaven knows. She is the mistress of the young police officer at present, so I 
was told. Their ways are not our ways. I think I know what he will be wanting 
tonight,’ he added as he undid Flory’s braces— for Ko S’la had the art, so 
necessary in a bachelor’s servant, of undressing his master without waking 
him. 

The servants were rather pleased than not to see this return to bachelor 
habits. Flory woke about midnight, naked in a pool of sweat. His head felt as 
though some large, sharp-cornered metal object were bumping about inside it. 
The mosquito net was up, and a young woman was sitting beside the bed 
fanning him with a wicker fan. She had an agreeable negroid face, bronze-gold 
in the candlelight. She explained that she was a prostitute, and that Ko S’la 



210 Burmese Days 

had engaged her on his own responsibility for a fee of ten rupees. 

Flory’s head was splitting. ‘For God’s sake get me something to drink,’ he 
said feebly to the woman. She brought him some soda-water which Ko S’la 
had cooled in readiness and soaked a towel and put a wet compress round his 
forehead. She was a fat, good-tempered creature. She told him that her name 
was Ma Sein Galay, and that besides plying her other trade she sold paddy 
baskets in the bazaar near Li Yeik’s shop. Flory’s head felt better presently, 
and he asked for a cigarette; whereupon Ma Sein Galay, having fetched the 
cigarette, said naively, ‘Shall I take my clothes off now, thakinV 

Why not? he thought dimly. He made room for her in the bed. But when he 
smelled the familiar scent of garlic and coco-nut oil, something painful 
happened within him, and with his head pillowed on Ma Sein Galay’ s fat 
shoulder he actually wept, a thing he had not done since he was fifteen years 
old. 


20 


Next morning there was great excitement in Kyauktada, for the long- 
rumoured rebellion had at last broken out. Flory heard only a vague report of it 
at the time. He had gone back to camp as soon as he felt fit to march after the 
drunken night, and it was not until several days later that he learned the true 
history of the rebellion, in a long, indignant letter from Dr Veraswami. 

The doctor’s epistolary style was queer. His syntax was shaky and he was as 
free with capital letters as a seventeenth-century divine, while in the use of 
italics he rivalled Queen Victoria. There were eight pages of his small but 
sprawling handwriting. 

Mv DEAR FRIEND [the letter ran],- You will much regret to hear that the wiles of the crocodile have 
matured. The rebellion-the so-called rebellion-is all over and finished. And it has been, alas! a 
more Bloody affair than I had hoped should have been the case 

All has fallen out as I have prophesied to you it would be. On the day when you came back to 
Kyauktada U Po Kym’s spies have informed him that the poor unfortunate men whom he have 
Deluded are assembling in the jungle near Thongwa. The same night he sets out secretly with U 
Lugale, the Police Inspector, who is as great a Rogue as he, if that could be, and twelve constables. 
They make a swift raid upon Thongwa and surprise the rebels, of whom they are only Seven!* in a 
ruined field hut in the jungle. Also Mr Maxwell, who have heard rumours of the rebellion, came 
across from his camp bringing his Rifle and was in time to jom U Po Kym and the police in their 
attack on the hut The next morning the clerk Ba Sein, who is U Po Kym’s jackall and dirty worker, 
have orders to raise the cry of rebellion as Sensationally as possible, which was done, and Mr 
Macgregor, Mr Westfield and Lieutenant Verrall all rush out to Thongwa carrying fifty sepoys 
armed with rifles besides Civil Police. But they arrive to find it is all over and U Po Kyin was sitting 
under a big teak tree in the middle of the village and putting on airs and lecturing the villages, 
whereat they are all bowing very frightened and touching the ground with their foreheads and 
swearing they will be forever loyal to the Government, and the rebellion is already at an end The 



Burmese Days 21 1 

so-called weiksa, who is no other than a circus conjurer and the minion of U Po Kym, have vanished 
for parts unknown, but six rebels have been Caught So there is an end 

Also I should inform you that there was most regrettably a Death Mr Maxwell was I think too 
anxious to use his Rifle and when one of the rebels try to run away he fired and shoot him in the 
abdomen, at which he died I think the villagers have some bad feeling towards Mr Maxwell 
because of it. But from the point of view legal all is well for Mr Maxwell, because the men were 
undoubtedly conspiring against the Government 

Ah, but, my Friend, I trust that you understand how disastrous may all this be for me 1 You will 
realise, I think, what is its bearing upon the Contest between U Po Kyin and myself, and the 
supreme leg-up it must give to him It is the triumph of the crocodile U Po Kym is now the Hero of 
the district He is the pet of the Europeans I am told that even Mr Ellis has praised his conduct If 
you could witness the abominable Conceitedness and the lies he is now telling as to how there were 
not seven rebels but Two Hundred'! and how he crushed upon them revolver m hand-he who 
only directing operations from a safe distance while the police and Mr Maxwell creep up upon the 
hut-you would find it veritably Nauseous I assure you. He has had the effrontery to send m an 
official report of the matter which started, ‘By my loyal promptitude and reckless daring’, and I 
hear that positively he had had this Conglomeration of lies written out in readiness days before the 
occurrence It is Disgusting And to think that now when he is at the Height of his triumph he will 
again begin to calumniate me with all the venom at his disposal etc , etc. 

The rebels’ entire stock of weapons had been captured. The armoury with 
which, when their followers were assembled, they had proposed to march 
upon Kyauktada, consisted of the following: 

Item, one shotgun with a damaged left barrel, stolen from a Forest Officer 
three years earlier. 

Item, six home-made guns with barrels of zmc piping stolen from the 
railway. These could be fired, after a fashion, by thrusting a nail through the 
touch-hole and striking it with a stone. 

Item, thirty-nine twelve-bore cartridges. 

Item, eleven dummy guns carved out of teakwood. 

Item, some large Chinese crackers which were to have been fired in terrorem. 

Later, two of the rebels were sentenced to fifteen years 1 transportation, three 
to three years’ imprisonment and twenty-five lashes, and one to two years’ 
imprisonment. 

The whole miserable rebellion was so obviously at an end that the 
Europeans were not considered to be in any danger, and Maxwell had gone 
back to his camp unguarded. Flory intended to stay in camp until the rains 
broke, or at least until the general meeting at the Club. He had promised to be 
in for that, to propose the doctor’s election; though now, with his own trouble 
to think of, the whole business of the intrigue between U Po Kyin and the 
doctor sickened him. 

More weeks crawled by. The heat was dreadful now. The overdue rain 
seemed to have bred a fever in the air. Flory was out of health, and worked 
incessantly, worrying over petty jobs that should have been left to the overseer, 
and making the coolies and even the servants hate him. He drank gin at all 
hours, but not even drinking could distract him now. The vision of Elizabeth 
in Verrall’s arms haunted him like a neuralgia or an earache. At any moment it 
would come upon him, vivid and disgusting, scattering his thoughts, 
wrenching him back from the brink of sleep, turning his food to dust in his 
mouth. At times he flew into savage rages, and once even struck Ko S’ia. What 



212 Burmese Days 

was worse than all was the detail - the always filthy detail-in which the 
imagined scene appeared The very perfection of the detail seemed to prove 
that it was true 

Is there anything in the world more graceless, more dishonouring, than to 
desire a woman whom you will never have? Throughout all these weeks 
Flory’s mind held hardly a thought which was not murderous or obscene It is 
the common effect of jealousy Once he had loved Elizabeth spiritually, 
sentimentally indeed, desiring her sympathy more than her caresses, now, 
when he had lost her, he was tormented by the basest physical longing He did 
not even idealize her any longer He saw her now almost as she was-silly, 
snobbish, heartless-and it made no difference to his longing for her Does it 
ever make any difference? At nights when he lay awake, his bed dragged 
outside the tent for coolness, looking at the velvet dark from which the barking 
of a gyi sometimes sounded, he hated himself for the images that inhabited his 
mind It was so base, this envying of the better man who had beaten him For it 
was only envy-even jealousy was too good a name for it What right had he to 
be jealous? He had offered himself to a girl who was too young and pretty for 
him, and she had turned him down-rightly He had got the snub he deserved 
Nor was there any appeal from that decision, nothing would ever make him 
young again, or take away his birthmark and his decade of lonely debaucheries 
He could only stand and look on while the better man took her, and envy him, 
like-but the simile was not even mentionable Envy is a horrible thing It is 
unlike all other kinds of suffering in that there is no disguising it, no elevating it 
into tragedy It is more than merely painful, it is disgusting 

But meanwhile, was it true, what he suspected? Had Verrall really become 
Elizabeth’s lover? There is no knowing, but on the whole the chances were 
against it, for, had it been so, there would have been no concealing it m such a 
place as Kyauktada Mrs Lackersteen would probably have guessed it, even if 
the others had not One thing was certain, however, and that was that Verrall 
had as yet made no proposal of marriage A week went by, two weeks, three 
weeks, three weeks is a very long time in a small Indian station Verrall and 
Elizabeth rode together every evening, danced together every night, yet 
Verrall had never so much as entered the Lackersteens’ house There was 
endless scandal about Elizabeth, of course All the Orientals of the town had 
taken it for granted that she was Verrall’ s mistress, U Po Kym’s version (he 
had a way of being essentially right even when he was wrong m detail) was that 
Elizabeth had been Flory’s concubine and had deserted him for Verrall 
because Verrall paid her more Ellis, too, was inventing tales about Elizabeth 
that made Mr Macgregor squirm Mrs Lackersteen, as a relative, did not hear 
these scandals, but she was growing nervous Every evening when Elizabeth 
came home from her ride she would meet her hopefully, expecting the ‘Oh, 
aunt* What do you think 1 ’-and then the glorious news But the news never 
came, and however carefully she studied Elizabeth’s face, she could divine 
nothing. 

When three weeks had passed Mrs Lackersteen became fretful and finally 
half angry The thought of her husband, alone-or rather, not alone-m his 



Burmese Days 21s 

camp, was troubling her After all, she had sent him back to camp in order to 
give Elizabeth her chance with Verrall (not that Mrs Lacker steen would have 
put it so vulgarly as that) One evening she began lecturing and threatening 
Elizabeth in her oblique way The conversation consisted of a sighing 
monologue with very long pauses-for Elizabeth made no answer whatever 
Mrs Lackersteen began with some general remarks, apropos of a 
photograph m the Tatler, about these fast modern girls who went about in 
beach pyjamas and all that and made themselves so dreadfully cheap with men 
A girl, Mrs Lackersteen said, should never make herself too cheap with a man, 
she should make herself-but the opposite of ‘cheap’ seemed to be ‘expensive’, 
and that did not sound at all right, so Mrs Lackersteen changed her tack She 
went on to tell Elizabeth about a letter she had had from home with further 
news of that poor, poor dear girl who was out in Burma for a while and had so 
foolishly neglected to get married Her sufferings had been quite heartrending, 
and it just showed how glad a girl ought to be to marry anyone, literally anyone 
It appeared that the poor, poor dear girl had lost her job and been practically 
starving for a long time, and now she had actually had to take a job as a common 
kitchen maid under a horrid, vulgar cook who bullied her most shockingly 
And it seemed that the black beetles m the kitchen were simply beyond belief 1 
Didn’t Elizabeth think it too absolutely dreadfuP Black beetles' 

Mrs Lackersteen remained silent fc?r some time, to allow the black beetles to 
sink m, before adding 

'Such a pity that Mr Verrall will be leaving us when the rams break 
Kyauktada will seem quite empty without him 1 ’ 

‘When do the rams break, usually 5 ’ said Elizabeth as indifferently as she 
could manage 

‘About the beginmng of June, up here Only a week or two now My 
dear, it seems absurd to mention it again, but I cannot get out of my head the 
thought of that poor, poor dear girl in the kitchen among the black beetles 
Black beetles recurred more than once in Mrs Lackersteen’s conversation 
during the rest of the evening It was not until the following day that she 
remarked m the tone of someone dropping an unimportant piece of gossip 
‘By the way, I believe Flory is coming back to Kyauktada at the beginning of 
June He said he was gomg to be m for the general meeting at the Club 
Perhaps we might invite him to dinner some time ’ 

It was the first time that either of them had mentioned Flory since the day 
when he had brought Elizabeth the leopard-skm After being virtually 
forgotten for several weeks, he had returned to each woman’s mind, a 
depressing pis aller 

Three days later Mrs Lackersteen sent word to her husband to come back to 
Kyauktada He had been m camp long enough to earn a short spell in 
headquarters He came back, more florid than ever- sunburn, he 
explamed-and having acquired such a trembling of the hands that he could 
barely light a cigarette Nevertheless, that evening he celebrated his return by 
manoeuvring Mrs Lackersteen out of the house, coming into Elizabeth’s 
bedroom and making a spirited attempt to rape her 



214 Burmese Days 

During all this time, unknown to anyone of importance, further sedition was 
afoot The ‘weiksa’ (now far away, peddling the philosopher’s stone to 
1 innocent villagers in Martaban) had perhaps done his job a little better than he 
intended At any rate, there was a possibility of fresh trouble-some isolated, 
futile outrage, probably Even U Po Kym knew nothing of this yet But as 
usual the gods were fighting on his side, for any further rebellion would make 
the first seem more serious than it had been, and so add to his glory 


21 


O western wind, when wilt thou blow, that the small ram down can ram? It was 
the first of June, the day of the general meeting, and there had not been a drop 
of ram yet As Flory came up the Club path the sun of afternoon, slanting 
beneath his hat-brim, was still savage enough to scorch his neck 
uncomfortably The mail staggered along the path, his breast-muscles slippery 
with sweat, carrying two kerosene-tins of water on a yoke He dumped them 
down, slopping a little water over his lank brown feet, and salaamed to Flory 

‘Well, mail , is the ram coming?’ 

The man gestured vaguely towards the west ‘The hills have captured it, 
sahib 5 

Kyauktada was ringed almost round by hills, and these caught the earlier 
showers, so that sometimes no ram fell till amost the end of June The earth of 
the flower-beds, hoed into large untidy lumps, looked grey and hard as 
concrete Flory went into the lounge and found Westfield loafing by the 
veranda, looking out over the river, for the chicks had been rolled up At the 
foot of the veranda a chokra lay on his back in the sun, pulling the punkah rope 
with his heel and shading his face with a broad strip of banana leaf 

‘Hullo, Flory* You’ve got thm as a rake ’ 

‘So’ve you ’ 

‘H’m, yes Bloody weather No appetite except for booze Christ, won’t I be 
glad when I hear the frogs start croaking Let’s have a spot before the others 
come Butler*’ 

‘Do you know who’s coming to the meeting?’ Flory said, when the butler 
had brought whisky and tepid soda 

‘Whole crowd, I believe Lackersteen got back from camp three days ago By 
God, that man’s been having the time of his life away from his missus* My 
inspector was telling me about the gomgs-on at his camp Tarts by the score 
Must have imported ’em specially from Kyauktada He’ll catch it all right 
when the old woman sees his Club bill Eleven bottles of whisky sent out to his 
camp in a fortnight ’ 

‘Is young Verrall coming?’ 



Burmese Days 215 

‘No, he’s only a temporary member Not that he’d trouble to come anyway, 
young tick Maxwell won’t be here either Can’t leave camp just yet, he says 
He sent word Ellis was to speak for him if there’s any voting to be done Don’t 
suppose there’ll be anything to vote about, though eh?’ he added, looking at 
Flory obliquely, for both of them remembered their previous quarrel on this 
subject 

4 1 suppose it lies with Macgregor ’ 

‘What I mean is*, Macgregor’ll have dropped that bloody rot about electing a 
native member, eh? Not the moment for it just now After the rebellion and all 
that ’ 

‘What about the rebellion, by the way 2’ said Flory He did not want to start 
wrangling about the doctor’s election yet There was going to be trouble and to 
spare m a few minutes ‘Any more news -are they going to have another try, do 
you think?’ 

‘No All over. I’m afraid They caved in like the funks they are The whole 
district’s as quiet as a bloody girls’ school Most disappointing ’ 

Flory’s heart missed a beat He had heard Elizabeth’s voice mthe next room 
Mr Macgregor came in at this moment, Ellis and Mr Lackersteen following 
This made up the full quota, for the women members of the Club had no votes 
Mr Macgregor was already dressed in a silk suit, and was carrying the Club 
account books under his arm He managed to bring a sub-official air even into 
such petty business as a Club meeting 

‘As we seem to be all here,’ he said after the usual greetings, ‘shall 
we-ah-proceed with our labours?’ 

‘Lead on, Macduff,’ said Westfield, sitting down 

‘Call the butler, someone, for Christ’s sake,’ said Mr Lackersteen ‘I daren’t 
let my missus hear me calling him ’ 

‘Before we apply ourselves to the agenda,’ said Mr Macgregor when he had 
refused a drink and the others had taken one, ‘I expect you will want me to run 
through the accounts for the half-year?’ 

They did not want it particularly, but Mr Macgregor, who enjoyed this kind 
of thing, ran through the accounts with great thoroughness Flory’s thoughts 
were wandering There was going to be such a row m a moment-oh, such a 
devil of a row! They would be furious when they found that he was proposing 
the doctor after all And Elizabeth was in the next room God send she didn’t 
hear the noise of the row when it came It would make her despise him all the 
more to see the others baiting him Would he see her this evening? Would she 
speak to him? He gazed across the quarter-mile of gleaming river By the far 
bank a knot of men, one of them wearing a green gaungbaung , were waiting 
beside a sampan In the channel, by the nearer bank, a huge, clumsy Indian 
barge struggled with desperate slowness against the racing current At each 
stroke the ten rowers, Dravidian starvelings, ran forward and plunged their 
long primitive oars, with heart-shaped blades, into the water They braced 
their meagre bodies, then tugged, writhed, strained backwards like agonized 
creatures of black rubber, and the ponderous hull crept onwards a yard or two 
Then the rowers sprang foward, panting, to plunge their oars agam before the 



216 


Burmese Days 


current should check her 

‘And now,’ said Mr Macgregor more gravely, ‘we come to the main point of 
the agenda That, of course, is this-ah-distasteful question, which I am afraid 
must be faced, of electing a native member to this Club When we discussed 
the matter before-’ 

‘What the hell ' 5 

It was Ellis who had interrupted He was so excited that he had sprung to his 
feet 

‘What the hell 1 Surely we aren’t starting that over again? Talk about electing 
a damned nigger to this Club, after everything that’s happened 1 Good God, I 
thought even Flory had dropped it by this time 1 ’ 

‘Our friend Ellis appears surprised The matter has been discussed before, I 
believe ’ 

‘I should think it damned well was discussed before* And we all said what we 
thought of it By God-’ 

‘If our friend Ellis will sit down for a few moments-’ said Mr Macgregor 
tolerantly 

Ellis threw himself into his chair again, exclaiming, ‘Bloody rubbish*’ 
Beyond the river Flory could see the group of Burmans embarking They were 
lifting a long, awkward-shaped bundle into the sampan Mr Macregor had 
produced a letter from his file of papers 

‘Perhaps I had better explain how this question arose in the first place The 
Commissioner tells me that a circular has been sent round by the Government, 
suggesting that in those Clubs where there are no native members, one at least 
shall be co-opted, that is, admitted automatically The circular says-ah yes' 
here it is “It is mistaken policy to offer social affronts to native officials of high 
standing ” I may say that I disagree most emphatically No doubt we all do 
We who have to do the actual work of government see things very differently 
from these-ah-Paget M P s who interfere with us from above The 
Commissioner quite agrees with me However-’ 

‘But it’s all bloody rot*’ broke in Ellis, ‘What’s it got to do with the 
Commissioner or anyone else? Surely we can do as we like in our own bloody 
Club? They’ve no right to dictate to us when we’re off duty ’ 

‘Quite,’ said Westfield 

‘You anticipate me I told the Commissioner that I should have to put the 
matter before the other members And the course he suggests is this If the idea 
finds any support m the Club, he thinks it would be better if we co-opted our 
native member On the other hand, if the entire Club is against it, it can be 
dropped That is, if opinion is quite unanimous ’ 

‘Well, it damned well is unanimous,’ said Ellis 

‘D’you mean,’ said Westfield, ‘that it depends on ourselves whether we have 
’em in here or no?’ 

‘I fancy we can take it as meaning that ’ 

‘Well, then, let’s say we’re against it to a man ’ 

‘And say it bloody firmly, by God We want to put our foot down on this idea 
once and for all ’ 



Burmese Days 217 

‘Hear, hear 1 ’ said Mr Lackersteen gruffly ‘Keep the black swabs out of it 
Esprit de corps and all that.’ 

Mr Lackersteen could always be relied upon for sound sentiments in a case 
like this In his heart he did not care and never had cared a damn for the British 
Raj, and he was as happy drinking with an Oriental as with a white man, but he 
was always ready with a loud ‘Hear, hear 1 ’ when anyone suggested the bamboo 
for disrespectful servants or boiling oil for Nationalists He prided himself that 
though he might booze a bit and all that, dammit, he was loyal It was his form 
of respectability Mr Macgregor was secretly rather relieved by the general 
agreement If any Oriental member were co-opted, that member would have to 
be Dr Veraswami, and he had had the deepest distrust of the doctor ever since 
Nga Shwe O’s suspicious escape from the jail 

‘Then I take it that you are all agreed?’ he said ‘If so, I will inform the 
Commissioner Otherwise, we must begin discussing the candidate for 
election * 

Flory stood up He had got to say his say His heart seemed to have risen into 
his throat and to be choking him From what Mr Macgregor had said, it was 
clear that it was in his power to secure the doctor’s election by speaking the 
word But oh, what a bore, what a nuisance it was 1 What an infernal uproar 
there would be 1 How he wished he had never given the doctor that promise 1 
No matter, he had given it, and he could not break it So short a time ago he 
would have broken it, en bon pukka sahib , how easily 1 But not now He had got 
to see this thing through He turned himself sidelong so that his birthmark was 
away from the others Already he could feel his voice going flat and guilty 
‘Our friend Flory has something to suggest?’ 

‘Yes I propose Dr Veraswami as a member of this Club ’ 

There was such a yell of dismay from three of the others that Mr Macgregor 
had to rap sharply on the table and remind them that the ladies were m the next 
room Ellis took not the smallest notice He had sprung to his feet again, and 
the skm round his nose had gone quite grey He and Flory remained facing one 
another, as though on the point of blows 

‘Now, you damned swab, will you take that back?’ 

‘No, I will not ’ 

‘You oily swine 1 You nigger’s Nancy Boy 1 You crawling, sneakmg,-bloody 
bastard 1 ’ 

‘Order!’ exclaimed Mr Macgregor 

‘But look at him, look at him 1 ’ cried Ellis almost tearfully- ‘Letting us all 
down for the sake of a pot-bellied nigger 1 After ail we’ve said to him 1 When 
we’ve only got to hang together and we can keep the stink of garlic out of this 
Club for ever My God, wouldn’t it make you spew your guts up to see anyone 
behaving like such a-?’ 

‘Take it back, Flory, old man 1 ’ said Westfield 'Don’t be a bloody fool 1 ’ 
‘Downright Bolshevism, dammit 1 ’ said Mr Lackersteen 
‘Do you think I care what you say? What business is it of yours? It’s for 
Macgregor to decide ’ 

‘Then do you-ah~adhere to your decision?’ said Mr Macgregor gloomily 



218 


Burmese Days 


‘Yes ’ 

Mr Macgregor sighed ‘A pity 1 Well, m that case I suppose I have no 
choice-’ 

‘No, no, no 1 ’ cried Ellis, dancing about in his rage ‘Don’t give in to him' Put 
it to the vote And if that son of a bitch doesn’t put in a black ball like the rest of 
us, we’ll first turf him out of the Club himself, and then- well’ Butler' ’ 
‘Sahib 1 ’ said the butler, appearing 

‘Bring the ballot box and the balls Now clear out 1 ’ he added roughly when 
the butler had obeyed 

The air had gone very stagnant, for some reason the punkah had stopped 
working Mr Macgregor stood up with a disapproving but judicial mien, 
taking the two drawers of black and white balls out of the ballot box 

‘We must proceed in order Mr Flory proposes Dr Veraswami, the Civil 
Surgeon, as a member of this Club Mistaken, in my opinion, greatly mistaken, 
however-' Before putting the matter to the vote-’ 

‘Oh, why make a song and dance about it >5 said Ellis ‘Here’s my 
contribution' And another for Maxwell ’ He plumped two black balls into the 
box Then one of his sudden spasms of rage seized him, and he took the drawer 
of white balls and pitched them across the floor They went flying in all 
directions ‘There' Now pick one up if you want to use it'’ 

‘You damned fool' What good do you think that does^’ 

‘Sahib' 5 

They all started and looked round The chokra was goggling at them over 
the veranda rail, having climbed up from below With one skmny arm he clung 
to the rail and with the other gesticulated towards the river 
‘Sahib' Sahib'’ 

‘What’s up^’ said Westfield, 

They all moved for the window The sampan that Flory had seen across the 
river was lying under the bank at the foot of the lawn, one of the men clinging 
to a bush to steady it The Burman m the green gaungbaung was climbing out 
‘That’s one of Maxwell’s Forest Rangers' 5 said Ellis in quite a different 
voice ‘By God' something’s happened 1 ’ 

The Forest Ranger saw Mr Macgregor, shikoed in a hurried, preoccupied 
way and turned back to the sampan Four other men, peasants, climbed out 
after him, and with difficulty lifted ashore the strange bundle that Flory had 
seen in the distance It was six feet long, swathed m cloths, like a mummy 
Something happened in everybody’s entrails The Forest Ranger glanced at 
the veranda, saw that there was no way up, and led the peasants round the path 
to the front of the Club They had hoisted the bundle on to their shoulders as 
funeral bearers hoist a coffin. The butler had flitted into the lounge again, and 
even his face was pale after its fashion-that is, grey 
‘Butler'’ said Mr Macgregor sharply 
‘Sir' 5 

‘Go quickly and shut the door of the card-room Keep it shut Don’t let the 
memsahibs see ’ 

‘Yes, sir'’ 



Burmese Days 219 

The Burmans, with their burden, came heavily down the passage As they 
entered the leading man staggered and almost fell, he had trodden on one of the 
white balls that were scattered about the floor The Burmans knelt down, 
lowered their burden to the floor and stood over it with a strange reverent air, 
slightly bowing, their hands together in a shiko Westfield had fallen on his 
knees, and he pulled back the cloth 

‘Christ 1 Just look at him 1 ’ he said, but without much surprise ‘Just look at 
the poor little b — >’ 

Mr Lackersteen had retreated to the other end of the room, with a bleating 
noise From the moment when the bundle was lifted ashore they had all known 
what it contained It was the body of Maxwell, cut almost to pieces with dahs 
by two relatives of the man whom he had shot 


22 


Maxwell’s death had caused a profound shock m Kyauktada It would cause a 
shock throughout the whole of Burma, and the case-‘the Kyauktada case, do 
you remember?’-would still be talked of years after the wretched youth’s 
name was forgotten But in a purely personal way no one was much distressed 
Maxwell had been almost a nonentity-just a ‘good fellow’ like any other of the 
ten thousand ex colore good fellows of Burma-and with no close friends No 
one among the Europeans genuinely mourned for him But that is not to say 
that they were not angry On the contrary, for the moment they were almost 
mad with rage For the unforgivable had happened-a white man had been 
killed When that happens, a sort of shudder runs through the English of the 
East Eight hundred people, possibly, are murdered every year m Burma, they 
matter nothing, but the murder of a white man is a monstrosity, a sacrilege 
Poor Maxwell would be avenged, that was certain But only a servant or two, 
and the Forest Ranger who had brought in his body and who had been fond of 
him, shed any tears for his death 

On the other hand, no one was actually pleased, except U Po Kym 
‘This is a positive gift from heaven 1 ’ he told Ma Km ‘I could not have 
arranged it better myself. The one thing I needed to make them take my 
rebellion seriously was a little bloodshed And here it is 1 I tell you, Ma Km, 
every day I grow more certain that some higher power is working on my 
behalf’ 

‘Ko Po Kym, truly you are without shame* I do not know how you dare to 
say such things Do you not shudder to have murder upon your souP’ 

‘What* P Murder upon my souP What are you talking about? I have never 
killed so much as a chicken in my life.’ 

‘But you are profiting by this poor boy’s death ’ 



220 Burmese Days 

‘Profiting by it 1 Ot course I am profiting by it' And why not, indeed? Am I to 
blame if somebody else choose to commit murder? The fisherman catches fish, 
and he is damned for it But are we damned for eating the fish? Certainly not 
Why not eat the fish, once it is dead? You should study the Scriptures more 
carefully, my dear Kin Km ’ 

The funeral took place next morning, before breakfast All the Europeans 
were present, except Verrall, who was careering about the maidan quite as 
usual, almost opposite the cemetery Mr Macgregor read the burial service 
The little group of Englishmen stood round the grave, their topis m their 
hands, sweating into the dark suits that they had dug out from the bottom of 
their boxes The harsh morning light beat without mercy upon their faces, 
yellower than ever against the ugly, shabby clothes Every face except 
Elizabeth’s looked lined and old Dr Veraswami and half a dozen other 
Orientals were present, but they kept themselves decently in the background 
There were sixteen gravestones in the little cemetery, assistants of timber 
firms, officials, soldiers killed in forgotten skirmishes 

‘Sacred to the memory of John Henry Spagnall, late of the Indian Imperial 
Police, who was cut down by cholera while in the unremitting exercise of’ etc , 
etc , etc 

Flory remembered Spagnall dimly He had died very suddenly in camp after 
his second go of delirium tremens In a corner there were some graves of 
Eurasians, with wooden crosses The creeping jasmine, with tmy orange- 
hearted flowers, had overgrown everything Among the jasmine, large rat- 
holes led down into the graves 

Mr Macgregor concluded the burial service in a ripe, reverent voice, and led 
the way out of the cemetery, holding his grey topi-the Eastern equivalent of a 
top hat-agamst his stomach Flory lingered by the gate, hoping that Elizabeth 
would speak to him, but she passed him without a glance Everyone had 
shunned him this morning He was in disgrace, the murder had made his 
disloyalty of last night seem somehow horrible Ellis had caught Westfield by 
the arm, and they halted at the grave-side, taking out their cigarette-cases 
Flory could hear their slangy voices coming across the open grave 

‘My God, Westfield, my God, when I think of that poor little b — lying 
down there-oh, my God, how my blood does boil' I couldn’t sleep all night, I 
was so furious ’ 

‘Pretty bloody, I grant Never mind, promise you a couple of chaps shall 
swing for it Two corpses against their one-best we can do ’ 

‘Two 1 It ought to be fifty 1 We’ve got to raise heaven and hell to get these 
fellows hanged Have you got their names yet?’ 

‘Yes, rather'! Whole blooming district knows who did it We always do 
know who’s done it in these cases Getting the bloody villagers to talk-that’s 
the only trouble 5 

‘Well, for God’s sake get them to talk this time Never mmd the bloody law 
Whack it out of them Torture them-any thing If you want to bribe any 
witnesses, I’m good for a couple of hundred chips ’ 

Westfield sighed ‘Can’t do that sort of thing. I’m afraid Wish we could My 



Burmese Days 221 

chaps’d know how to put the screw on a witness if you gave ’em the word Tie 
’em down on an ant-hill Red peppers But that won’t do nowadays Got to 
keep our own bloody silly laws But never mmd, those fellows’ll swing all 
right We’ve got all the evidence we want ’ 

‘Good 1 And when you’ve arrested them, if you aren’t sure of getting a 
conviction, shoot them, jolly well shoot them 1 Fake up an escape or something 
Anything sooner than let those b — s go free ’ 

‘They won’t go free, don’t you fear We’ll get ’em Get somebody , anyhow 
Much better hang wrong fellow than no fellow,’ he added, unconsciously 
quoting 

‘That’s the stuff 1 I’ll never sleep easy again till I’ve seen them swinging,’ 
said Ellis as they moved away from the grave ‘Christ 1 Let’s get out of this sun' 
I’m about perishing with thirst ’ 

Everyone was perishing, more or less, but it seemed hardly decent to go 
down to the Club for drinks immediately after the funeral The Europeans 
scattered for their houses, while four sweepers with mamooties flung the grey, 
cement-like earth back into the grave, and shaped it into a rough mound 
After breakfast, Ellis was walking down to his office, cane m hand It was 
blinding hot Ellis had bathed and changed back into shirt and shorts, but 
wearing a thick suit even for an hour had brought on his prickly heat 
abominably Westfield had gone out already, in his motor launch, with an 
Inspector and half a dozen men, to arrest the murderers He had ordered 
Verrall to accompany him-not that Verrall was needed, but, as Westfield said, 
it would do the young swab good to have a spot of work 

Ellis wriggled his shoulders-his prickly heat was almost beyond bearing 
The rage was stewing in his body like a bitter juice He had brooded all night 
over what had happened They had killed a white man, killed a white man , the 
bloody sods, the sneaking, cowardly hounds' Oh, the swine, the swine, how 
they ought to be made to suffer for it 1 Why did we make these cursed kid-glove 
laws? Why did we take everything lying down? Just suppose this had happened 
in a German colony, before the War 1 The good old Germans 1 They knew how 
to treat the niggers Reprisals 1 Rhinoceros hide whips 1 Raid their villages, kill 
their cattle, burn their crops, decimate them, blow them from the guns 
Ellis gazed into the horrible cascades of light that poured through the gaps m 
the trees His greenish eyes were large and mournful A mild, middle-aged 
Burman came by, balancing a huge bamboo, which he shifted from one 
shoulder to the other with a grunt as he passed Ellis Ellis’s grip tightened on 
his stick If that swine, now, would only attack you 1 Or even insult 
you-anythmg, so that you had the right to smash him 1 If only these gutless 
curs would ever show fight in any conceivable way 1 Instead of just sneaking 
past you, keeping within the law so that you never had a chance go get back on 
them Ah, for a real rebellion-martial law proclaimed and no quarter given 1 
Lovely, sanguinary images moved through his mind. Shrieking mounds of 
natives, soldiers slaughtering them Shoot them, ride them down, horses’ 
hooves trample their guts out, whips cut their faces in slices 1 
Five High School boys came down the road abreast Ellis saw them coming, 



222 Burmese Days 

a row of yellow, malicious faces-epicene faces, horribly smooth and young, 
grinning at him with deliberate insolence It was in their minds to bait him, as a 
white man Probably they had heard of the murder, and-bemg Nationalists, 
like all schoolboys-regarded it as a victory They grinned full in Ellis’s face as 
they passed him They were trying openly to provoke him, and they knew that 
the law was on their side Ellis felt his breast swell The look of their faces, 
jeering at him like a row of yellow images, was maddening He stopped short 
‘Here 1 What are you laughing at, you young ticks?’ 

The boys turned 

‘I said what the bloody hell are you laughing at ? 5 

One of the boys answered, msolently-but perhaps his bad English made 
him seem more insolent than he intended 
‘Not your business ’ 

There was about a second during which Ellis did not know what he was 
doing In that second he had hit out with all his strength, and the cane landed, 
crack 1 right across the boy’s eyes The boy recoiled with a shriek, and in the 
same instant the other four had thrown themselves upon Ellis But he was too 
strong for them He flung them aside and sprang back, lashing out with his 
stick so furiously that none of them dared come near 
‘Keep your distance, you — s 1 Keep off, or by God I’ll smash another of you 1 ’ 
Though they were four to one he was so formidable that they surged back m 
fright The boy who was hurt had fallen on his knees with his arms across his 
face, and was screaming ‘I am blinded 1 1 am blinded 1 ’ Suddenly the other four 
turned and darted for a pile of latente, used for road-mending, which was 
twenty yards away One of Ellis’s clerks had appeared on the veranda of the 
office and was leaping up and down m agitation 

‘Come up, sir come up at once They will murder you 1 ’ 

Ellis disdained to run, but he moved for the veranda steps A lump of latente 
came sailing through the air and shattered itself against a pillar, whereat the 
clerk scooted indoors But Ellis turned on the veranda to face the boys, who 
were below, each carrying an armful of latente He was cackling with delight 
‘You damned, dirty little niggers 1 ’ he shouted down at them ‘You got a 
surprise that time, didn’t you? Come up on this veranda and fight me, all four 
of you 1 You daren’t Four to one and you daren’t face me 1 Do you call 
yourselves men? You sneaking, mangy little rats 1 ’ 

He broke into Burmese, calling them the incestuous children of pigs All the 
while they were pelting him with lumps of latente, but their arms were feeble 
and they threw ineptly He dodged the stones, and as each one missed him he 
cackled m triumph Presently there was a sound of shouts up the road, for the 
noise had been heard at the police station, and some constables were emerging 
to see what was the matter. The boys took fright and bolted, leaving Ellis a 
complete victor. 

Ellis had heartily enjoyed the affray, but he was furiously angry as soon as it 
was over He wrote a violent note to Mr Macgregor, telling him that he had 
been wantonly assaulted and demanding vengeance Two clerks who had 
witnessed the scene, and a chaprassi, were sent along to Mr Macgregor’ s office 



Burmese Days 223 

to corroborate the story They lied in perfect unison ‘The boys had attacked 
Mr Ellis without any provocation whatever, he had defended himself,’ etc*, 
etc Ellis, to do him justice, probably believed this to be a truthful version of 
the story Mr Macgregor was somewhat disturbed, and ordered the police to 
find the four schoolboys and mterrogate them The boys, however, had been 
expecting something of the kind, and were lying very low, the police searched 
the bazaar all day without finding them In the evening the wounded boy was 
taken to a Burmese doctor, who, by applying some poisonous concoction of 
crushed leaves to his left eye, succeeded in blinding him 
The Europeans met at the Club as usual that evening, except for Westfield 
and Verrall, who had not yet returned Everyone was m a bad mood Coming 
on top of the murder, the unprovoked attack on Ellis (for that was the accepted 
description of it) had scared them as well as angered them Mrs Lackersteen 
was twittering to the tune of ‘We shall all be murdered m our beds’ Mr 
Macgregor, to reassure her, told her in cases of riot the European ladies were 
always locked inside the jail until everything was over, but she did not seem 
much comforted Ellis was offensive to Flory, and Elizabeth cut him almost 
dead He had come down to the Club m the insane hope of making up their 
quarrel, and her demeanour made him so miserable that for the greater part of 
the evening he skulked m the library It was not till eight o’clock when 
everyone had swallowed a number of drinks, that the atmosphere grew a little 
more friendly, and Ellis said 

‘What about sending a couple of chokras up to our houses and getting our 
dinners sent down here? We might as well have a few lubbers of bridge Better 
than mooning about at home ’ 

Mrs Lackersteen, who was in dread of going home, jumped at the 
suggestion The Europeans occasionally dined at the Club when they wanted 
to stay late Two of the chokras were sent for, and on being told what was 
wanted of them, immediately burst mto tears It appeared that if they went up 
the hill they were certain of encountering Maxwell’s ghost The malt was sent 
instead As the man set out Flory noticed that it was again the night of the full 
moon-four weeks to a day since that evening, now unutterably remote, when 
he had kissed Elizabeth under the frangipani tree 
They had just sat down at the bridge table, and Mrs Lackersteen had just 
revoked out of pure nervousness, when there was a heavy thump on the roof 
Everyone started and look up 
‘A coco-nut falling 1 ’ said Mr Macgregor 
‘There aren’t any coco-nut trees here,’ said Ellis 

The next moment a number of things happened all together There was 
another and much louder bang, one of the petrol lamps broke from its hook 
and crashed to the ground, narrowly missing Mr Lackersteen, who jumped 
aside with a yelp, Mrs Lackersteen began screaming, and the butler rushed 
into the room, bareheaded, his face the colour of bad coffee 
‘Sir, sir 1 Bad men come 1 Going to murder us all, sir!’ 

‘What? Bad men? What do you mean? 

‘Sir, all the villagers are outside! Big stick and dah m their hands, and all 



224 Burmese Days 

dancing about' Going to cut master’s throat, sir' 5 
Mrs Lackersteen threw herself backwards in her chair She was setting up 
such a din of screams as to drown the butler’s voice 
£ Oh, be quiet' 5 said Ellis sharply, turning on her ‘Listen, all of you' Listen 
to that' 5 

There was a deep, murmurous, dangerous sound outside, like the humming 
of an angry giant Mr Macgregor, who had stood up, stiffened as he heard it, 
and settled his spectacles pugnaciously on his nose 
‘This is some kind of disturbance' Butler, pick that lamp up Miss 
Lackersteen, look to your aunt See if she is hurt The rest of you come with 
me' 5 

They all made for the front door, which someone, presumably the butler, 
had closed A fusillade of small pebbles was rattling against it like hail Mr 
Lackersteen wavered at the sound and retreated behind the others 
‘I say, dammit, bolt that bloody door, someone' 5 he said 
‘No, no' 5 said Mr Macgregor ‘We must go outside It’s fatal not to face 
them' 5 

He opened the door and presented himself boldly at the top of the steps 
There were about twenty Burmans*on the path, with dahs or sticks in their 
hands Outside the fence, stretching up the road m either direction and far out 
on to the maidan, was an enormous crowd of people. It was like a sea of people, 
two thousand at the least, black and white m the moon, with here and there a 
curved dah glittering Ellis had coolly placed himself beside Mr Macgregor, 
with his hands in his pockets Mr Lackersteen had disappeared 

Mr Macgregor raised his hand for silence ‘What is the meaning of this?’ he 
shouted sternly 

There were yells, and some lumps of latente the size of cricket balls came 
sailing from the road, but fortunately hit no one One of the men on the path 
turned and waved his arms to the others, shouting that they were not to begin 
throwing yet Then he stepped forward to address the Europeans He was a 
strong debonair fellow of about thirty, with down-curving moustaches, 
wearing a singlet, with his longyi kilted to the knee 
‘What is the meaning of this?’ Mr Macgregor repeated. 

The man spoke up with a cheerful grin, and not very insolently 
‘We have no quarrel with you, min gyi We have come for the timber 
merchant, Ellis ’ (He pronounced it Ellit ) ‘The boy whom he struck this 
morning has gone blind You must send Ellit out to us here, so that we can 
punish him The rest of you will not be hurt.’ 

‘Just remember that fellow’s face,’ said Ellis over his shoulder to Flory 
‘We’ll get him seven years for this afterwards,’ 

Mr Macgregorhad turned temporarily quite purple His rage was so great 
that it almost choked him For several moments he could not speak, and when 
he did so it was m English 

‘Whom do you think you are speaking to? In twenty years I have never heard 
such insolence' Go away this instant, or I shall call out the Military Police!’ 
‘You’d better be quick, mm gyi. We know that there is no justice for us m 



Burmese Days 22 5 

your courts, so we must punish Elht ourselves Send him out to us here 
Otherwise, all of you will weep for it ’ 

Mr Macgregor made a furious motion with his fist, as though hammering in 
a nail ‘Go away, son of a dog ! ’ he cried, using his first oath in many years 
There was a thunderous roar from the road, and such a shower of stones, 
that everyone was hit, including the Burmans on the path One stone took Mr 
Macgregor full in the face, almost knocking him down The Europeans bolted 
hastily inside and barred the door Mr Macgregor’s spectacles were smashed 
and his nose streaming blood They got back to the lounge to find Mrs 
Lackersteen looping about in one of the long chairs like a hysterical snake, Mr 
Lackersteen standing irresolutely m the middle of the room, holding an empty 
bottle, the butler on his knees in the corner, crossing himself (he was a Roman 
Catholic), the chokras crying, and only Elizabeth calm, though she was very 
pale 

‘What’s happened?’ she exclaimed 

‘We’re in the soup, that’s what’s happened 1 ’ said Ellis angrily, feeling at the 
back of his neck where a stone had hit him ‘The Burmans are all round, shying 
rocks But keep calm 1 They haven’t the guts to break the doors in ’ 

‘Call out the police at once*’ said Mr Macgregor indistinctly, for he was 
stanching his nose with his handkerchief 
‘Can’t 1 ’ said Ellis ‘I was looking round while you were talking to them 
They’ve cut us off, rot their damned souls 1 No one could possibly get to the 
police lines Veraswami’s compound is full of men ’ 

‘Then we must wait We can trust them to turn out of their own accord 
Calm yourself, my dear Mrs Lackersteen, please calm yourself* The danger is 
very small ’ 

It did not sound small There were no gaps in the noise now, and the 
Burmans seemed to be pouring into the compounds by hundreds The dm 
swelled suddenly to such a volume that no one could make himself heard 
except by shouting All the windows in the lounge had been shut, and some 
perforated zinc shutters within, which were sometimes used for keeping out 
insects, pulled to and bolted There was a series of crashes as the windows were 
broken, and then a ceaseless thudding of stones from all sides, that shook the 
thin wooden walls and seemed likely to split them Ellis opened a shutter and 
flung a bottle viciously among the crowd, but a dozen stones came hurtling m 
and he had to close the shutter hurriedly The Burmans seemed to have no plan 
beyond flinging stones, yelling and hammering at the walls, but the mere 
volume of noise was unnerving The Europeans were half dazed by it at first 
None of them thought to blame Ellis, the sole cause of this affair, their 
common peril seemed, indeed, to draw them closer together for the while Mr 
Macgregor, half-blind without his spectacles, stood distractedly m the middle 
of the room, yielding his right hand to Mrs Lackersteen, who was caressing it, 
while a weeping chokra clung to his left leg Mr Lackersteen had vanished 
again. EUis was stamping furiously up and down, shaking his fist in the 
direction of the police lines 

‘Where are the police, the f*-— cowardly sods?’ he yelled, heedless of the 



226 Burmese Days 

women ‘Why don’t they turn out? My God, we won’t get another chance like 
this in a hundred years' If we’d only ten rifles here, how we could slosh these 
b— s' 5 

‘They’ll be here presently 1 ’ Mr Macgregor shouted back ‘It will take them 
some minutes to penetrate that crowd ’ 

‘But why don’t they use their rifles, the miserable sons of bitches? They 
could slaughter them in bloody heaps if they’d only open fire Oh, God, to 
think of missing a chance like this 1 ’ 

A lump of rock burst one of the zinc shutters Another followed through the 
hole it had made, stove in a ‘Bonzo’ picture, bounced off, cut Elizabeth’s 
elbow, and finally landed on the table There was a roar of triumph from 
outside, and then a succession of tremendous thumps on the roof Some 
children had climbed into the trees and were havmg the time of their lives 
sliding down the roof on their bottoms Mrs Lackersteen outdid all previous 
efforts with a shriek that rose easily above the din outside 

‘Choke that bloody hag, somebody 1 ’ cried Ellis ‘Anyone’d think a pig was 
being killed We’ve got to do something Flory, Macgregor, come here 1 Think 
of a way out of this mess, someone 1 ’ 

Elizabeth had suddenly lost her nerve and begun crying The blow from the 
stone had hurt her To Flory’ s astonishment, he found her clinging tightly to 
his arm Even in that moment it made his heart turn over He had been 
watching the scene almost with detachment- dazed by the noise, indeed, but 
not much frightened He always found it difficult to believe Orientals could be 
really dangerous Only when he felt Elizabeth’s hand on his arm did he grasp 
the seriousness of the situation 

‘Oh, Mr Flory, please, please think of something 1 You can, you can 1 
Anything sooner than let those dreadful men get in here 1 ’ 

‘If only one of us could get to the police lines'’ groaned Mr Macgregor ‘A 
British officer to lead them' At the worst I must try and go myself ’ 

‘Don’t be a fool' Only get your throat cut'’ yelled Ellis *1*11 go if they really 
look like breaking m But, oh, to be killed by swine like that' How furious it’d 
make me' And to think we could murder the whole bloody crowd if only we 
could get the police here'’ 

‘Couldn’t someone get along the river bank?’ Flory shouted despairingly 
‘Hopeless' Hundreds of them prowling up and down We’re cut 
off-Burmans on three sides and the river on the other'’ 

‘The river 1 ’ 

One of those startling ideas that are overlooked simply because they are so 
obvious had sprung into Flory’s mind 
‘The nver' Of course! We can get to the police lines as easy as winking, 
Don’t you see?’ 

‘How?’ 

‘Why, down the nver-ifi the water' Swim!’ 

‘Oh, good man!’ cried Ellis, and smacked Flory on the shoulder Elizabeth 
squeezed his arm and actually danced a step or two in glee ‘I’ll go if you like!’ 
Ellis shouted, but Flory shook his head. He had already begun slipping his 



Burmese Days 227 

shoes off There was obviously no time to be lost The Burmans had behaved 
like fools hitherto, but there was no saying what might happen if they 
succeeded m breaking m The butler, who had got over his first fright, 
prepared to open the window that gave on the lawn, and glanced obliquely out 
There were barely a score of Burmans on the lawn They had left the back of 
the Club unguarded, supposing that the river cut off retreat 

‘Rush down the lawn like helli’ Ellis shouted in Flory’s ear ‘They’ll scatter 
all right when they see you ’ 

‘Order the police to open fire at once*’ shouted Mr Macgregor from the 
other side ‘You have my authority ’ 

‘And tell them to aim low 1 No firing over their heads Shoot to kill In the 
guts for choice 1 ’ 

Flory leapt down from the veranda, hurting his feet on the hard earth, and 
was at the river bank in six paces As Ellis had said, the Burmans recoiled for a 
moment when they saw him leaping down A few stones followed him, but no 
one pursued-they thought, no doubt, that he was only attempting to escape, 
and m the clear moonlight they could see that it was not Ellis In another 
moment he had pushed his way through the bushes and was in the water 

He sank deep down, and the horrible river ooze received him, sucking him 
knee-deep so that it was several seconds before he could free himself When he 
came to the surface a tepid froth, like the froth on stout, was lapping round his 
lips, and some spongy thing had floated into his throat and was choking him It 
was a sprig of water hyacinth He managed to spit it out, and found that the 
swift current had floated him twenty yards already Burmans were rushing 
rather aimlessly up and down the bank, yelling With his eye at the level of the 
water, Flory could not see the crowd besieging the Club, but he could hear 
their deep, devilish roaring, which sounded even louder than it had sounded 
on shore By the time he was opposite the Military Police lines the bank 
seemed almost bare of men He managed to struggle out of the current and 
flounder through the mud, which sucked off his left sock A little way down the 
bank two old men were sitting beside a fence, sharpening fence-posts, as 
though there had not been a not within a hundred miles of them Flory 
crawled ashore, clambered over the fence and ran heavily across the 
moonwhite parade-ground, his wet trousers sagging As far as he could tell in 
the noise, the lines were quite empty In some stalls over to the right Verrall’s 
horses were plunging about m a pamc Flory ran out on to the road, and saw 
what had happened 

The whole body of policemen, military and civil, about a hundred and fifty 
men in all, had attacked the crowd from the rear, armed only with sticks. They 
had been utterly engulfed The crowd was so dense that it was like an 
enormous swarm of bees seething and rotating Everywhere one could see 
policemen wedged helplessly among the hordes of Burmans, struggling 
furiously but uselessly, and too cramped even to use their sticks Whole knots 
of men were tangled LaocoOn-like in the folds of unrolled pagns There was a 
terrific bellowing of oaths in three or four languages, clouds of dust, and a 
suffocating stench of sweat and marigolds-but no one seemed to have been 



228 Burmese Days 

seriously hurt Probably the Burmans had not used their dahs for fear of 
provoking rifle-fire Flory pushed his way into the crowd and was immediately 
swallowed up like the others A sea of bodies closed m upon him and flung him 
from side to side, bumping his ribs and choking him with their animal heat He 
struggled onwards with an almost dreamlike feeling, so absurd and unreal was 
the situation The whole not had been ludicrous from the start, and what was 
most ludicrous of all was that the Burmans, who might have killed him, did not 
know what to do with him now he was among them Some yelled insults in his 
face, some jostled him and stamped on his feet, some even tried to make way 
for him, as a white man He was not certain whether he was fighting for his life, 
or merely pushing his way through the crowd For quite a long time he was 
jammed, helpless, with his arms pinned against his sides, then he found 
himself wrestling with a stumpy Burman much stronger than himself, then a 
dozen men rolled against him like a wave and drove him deeper into the heart 
of the crowd Suddenly he felt an agonizing pam m his right big toe- someone 
in boots had trodden on it It was the Military Police subahdar, a Rajput, very 
fat, moustachioed, with his pagn gone He was grasping a Burman by the 
throat and trying to hammer his face, while the sweat rolled off his bare, bald 
crown Flory threw his arm round the subahdar’s neck and managed to tear 
him away from his adversary and shout m his ear His Urdu deserted him, and 
he bellowed m Burmese 

‘Why did you not open fire? 5 

For a long time he could not hear the man’s answer Then he caught it 
t Hukm ne ay a’ -l have had no orderr 1 ’ 

‘Idiot 1 ’ 

At this moment another bunch of men drove against them, and for a minute 
or two they were pinned and quite unable to move Flory realized that the 
subahdar had a whistle m his pocket and was trying to get at it Finally he got it 
loose and blew piercing blasts, but there was no hope of rallying any men until 
they could get into a clear space It was a fearful labour to struggle out of the 
crowd-it was like wading neck-deep through a viscous sea At times the 
exhaustion of Flory’s limbs was so complete that he stood passive, letting the 
crowd hold him and even drive him backwards At last, more from the natural 
eddying of the crowd than by his own effort, he found himself flung out into 
the open The subahdar had also emerged, ten or fifteen sepoys, and a Burmese 
Inspector of Police Most of the sepoys collapsed on their haunches almost 
falling with fatigue, and limping, their feet having been trampled on 
‘Come on, get up' Run like hell for the lines 1 Get some rifles and a clip of 
ammunition each.’ 

He was too overcome even to speak in Burmese, but the men understood 
him and lopped heavily towards the police lines Flory followed them, to get 
away from the crowd before they turned on him again When he reached the 
gate the sepoys were returning with their rifles and already preparing to fire 
‘The sahib will give the order' 5 the subahdar panted 
‘Here you' 5 cried Flory to the Inspector ‘Can you speak Hindustani?’ 

‘Yes, sir ’ 



Burmese Days 229 

‘Then tell them to fire high, right over the people’s heads And above all, to 
fire all together Make them understand that ’ 

The fat Inspector, whose Hindustani was even worse than Flory’s, explained 
what was wanted, chiefly by leaping up and down and gesticulating The 
sepoys raised their rifles, there was a roar, and a rolling echo from the hillside 
For a moment Flory thought that his order had been disregarded, for almost 
the entire section of the crowd nearest them had fallen like a swath of hay 
However, they had only flung themselves down in panic The sepoys fired a 
second volley, but it was not needed The crowd had immediately begun to 
surge outwards from the Club like a river changing its course They came 
pouring down the road, saw the armed men barring their way, and tried to 
recoil, whereupon there was a fresh battle between those in front and those 
behind, finally the whole crowd bulged outwards and began to roll slowly up 
the maidan Flory and the sepoys moved slowly towards the Club on the heels 
of the retreating crowd The policemen who had been engulfed were straggling 
back by ones and twos Their pagns were gone and their puttees trailing yards 
behind them, but they had no damage worse than bruises The Civil 
Policemen were dragging a very few prisoners among them When they 
reached the Club compound the Burmans were still pouring out, an endless 
line of young men leaping gracefully through a gap in the hedge like a 
procession of gazelles It seemed to Flory that it was getting very dark A small 
white-clad figure extricated itself from the last of the crowd and tumbled 
limply into Flory’s arms It was Dr Veraswami, with his tie torn off but his 
spectacles miraculously unbroken 
‘Doctor 1 ’ 

‘Ach, my friend' Ach, how I am exhausted 1 ’ 

‘What are you doing here 7 * Were you right m the middle of that crowd 7 *’ 

‘I was trying to restrain them, my friend It was hopeless until you came 
But there is at least one man who bears the mark of this, I think 1 ’ 

He held out a small fist for Flory to see the damaged knuckles But it was 
certainly quite dark now At the same moment Flory heard a nasal voice 
behind him 

‘Well, Mr Flory, so it’s all over already' A mere flash m the pan as usual You 
and I together were a little too much for them-ha, ha 1 ’ 

It was U Po Kym He came towards them with a martial air, carrying a huge 
stick, and with a revolver thrust into his belt His dress was a studious 
n6glig6-smg\zt and Shan trousers-to give the impression that he had rushed 
out of his house post-haste He had been lying low until the danger should be 
over, and was now hurrying forth to grab a share of any credit that might be 
going 

‘A smart piece of work, sir' 5 he said enthusiastically ‘Look how they are 
flying up the hillside' We have routed them most satisfactory ’ 
l We n panted the doctor indignantly 

‘Ah, my dear doctor' I did not perceive that you were there It is possible 
that you also have been in the fighting 7 * Yuw-risking your most valuable life! 
Who would have believed such a thing 7 *’ 



2 so Burmese Days 

‘You’ve taken your time getting here yourself 5 said Flory angrily 

‘Well, well sir, it is enough that we have dispersed them Although,’ he 
added with a touch of satisfaction, for he had noticed Flory’ s tone, ‘they are 
going in the direction of the European houses, you will observe I fancy that it 
will occur to them to do a little plundering on their way ’ 

One had to admire the man’s impudence He tucked his great stick under his 
arm and strolled beside Flory m an almost patronizing manner, while the 
doctor dropped behind, abashed m spite of himself At the Club gate all three 
men halted It was now extraordinarily dark, and the moon had vanished Low 
overhead, just visible, black clouds were streaming eastward like a pack of 
hounds A wind, almost cold, blew down the hillside and swept a cloud of dust 
and fine water-vapour before it There was a sudden intensely rich scent of 
damp The wind quickened, the trees rustled, then began beating themselves 
furiously together, the big frangipani tree by the tennis court flinging out a 
nebula of dimly seen blossom All three men turned and hurried for shelter, 
the Orientals to their houses, Flory to the Club It had begun raining 



Next day the town was quieter than a cathedral city on Monday morning It is 
usually the case after a not Except for the handful of prisoners, everyone who 
could possibly have been concerned in the attack on the Club had a watertight 
alibi The Club garden looked as though a herd of bison had stampeded across 
it, but the houses had not been plundered, and there were no new casualties 
among the Europeans, except that after everything was over Mr Lackersteen 
had been found very drunk under the billiard-table, where he had retired with 
a bottle of whisky Westfield and Verrall came back early m the morning, 
bringing Maxwell’s murderers under arrest, or at any rate, bringing two 
people who would presently be hanged for Maxwell’s murder Westfield, 
when he heard the news of the riot, was gloomy but resigned Again it 
happened-a veritable not, and he not there to quell it* It seemed fated that he 
should never kill a man Depressmg, depressing Verrall’s only comment was 
that it had been ‘damned lip’ on the part of Flory (a civilian) to give orders to 
the Military Police 

Meanwhile, it was raining almost without cease As soon as he woke up and 
heard the ram hammering on the roof Flory dressed and hurried out, Flo 
following Out of sight of the houses he took off his clothes and let the ram 
sluice down on his bare body To his surprise, he found that he was covered 
with bruises from last night; but the ram had washed away every trace of his 
prickly heat within three minutes It is wonderful, the healing power of ram- 
water Flory walked down to Dr Veraswami’s house, with his shoes squelching 



Burmese Days 2 31 

and periodical jets of water flowing down his neck from the brim of his Terai 
hat The sky was leaden, and innumerable whirling storms chased one another 
across the maidan like squadrons of cavalry Burmans passed, under vast 
wooden hats m spite of which their bodies streamed water like the bronze gods 
in the fountains A network of rivulets was already washing the stones of the 
road bare The doctor had just got home when Flory arrived, and was shaking 
a wet umbrella over the veranda rail He hailed Flory excitedly 
‘Come up, Mr Flory, come up at once 1 You are just apropos I wass on the 
point of opening a bottle of Old Tommy Gin Come up and let me drmk to 
your health, ass the saviour of Kyauktada' 5 
They had a long talk together The doctor was m a triumphant mood It 
appeared that what had happened last night had righted his troubles almost 
miraculously U Po Kym’s schemes were undone The doctor was no longer at 
his mercy-m fact, it was the other way about The doctor explained to Flory 
‘You see, my friend, this not-or rather, your most noble behaviour m 
lt-wass quite outside U Po Kym’s programme He had started the so-called 
rebellion and had the glory of crushing it, and he calculated that any further 
outbreak would simply mean more glory still I am told that when he heard of 
Mr Maxwell’s death, hiss joy was positively’-the doctor nipped his thumb and 
forefinger together-‘what iss the word I want?’ 

‘Obscene?’ 

‘Ah yes Obscene It iss said that actually he attempted to dance-can you 
imagine such a disgusting spectacle?-and exclaimed, ‘‘Now at least they will 
take my rebellion seriously 1 ” Such iss his regard for human life But now hiss 
triumph iss at an end The not hass tripped up m mid-career ’ 

‘How?’ 

‘Because, do you not see, the honours of the riot are not hiss, but yours' And 
I am known to be your friend I stand, so to speak, in the reflection of your 
glory Are you not the hero of the hour? Did not your European friends receive 
you with open arms when you returned to the Club last night?’ 

‘They did, I must admit It was quite a new experience for me Mrs 
Lackersteen was all Over me “ Dear Mr Flory”, she calls me now And she’s 
got her kmfe properly m Ellis She hasn’t forgotten that he called her a bloody 
hag and told her to stop squealing like a pig ’ 

‘Ah, Mr Ellis iss sometimes over-emphatic in hiss expressions I have 
noticed it ’ 

‘The only fly in the ointment is that I told the police to fire over the crowd’s 
heads instead of straight at them It seems that’s against all the Government 
regulations Ellis was a little vexed about it “Why didn’t you plug some of the 
b — s when you had the chance?” he said I pointed out that it would have 
meant hitting the police who were m the middle of the crowd, but as he said, 
they were only niggers anyway However, all my sins are forgiven me And 
Macgregor quoted something in Latm-Horace, I believe/ 

It was half an hour later when Flory walked along to the Club He had 
promised to see Mr Macgregor and settle the busmess of the doctor’s election 
But there would be no difficulty about it now The others would eat out of his 



2 32 Burmese Days 

hand until the absurd not was forgotten, he could have gone into the Club and 
made a speech in favour of Lenm, and they would have put up with it The 
lovely rain streamed down, drenching him from head to foot, and filling his 
nostrils with the scent of earth, forgotten during the bitter months of drought 
He walked up the wrecked garden, where the malt , bending down with the rain 
splashing on his bare back, was trowelling holes for zinnias Nearly all the 
flowers had been trampled out of existence, Elizabeth was there, on the side 
veranda, almost as though she were waiting for him He took off his hat, 
spilling a pool of water from the brim, and went round to join her 
‘Good morning 1 ’ he said, raising his voice because of the ram that beat 
noisily on the low roof 

‘Good morning' Isn’t it coming down? Simply pelting^ 

‘Oh, this isn’t real rain Y ou wait till July The whole Bay of Bengal is going 
to pour itself on us, by instalments 5 

It seemed that they must never meet without talking of the weather 
Nevertheless, her face said something very different from the banal words Her 
demeanour had changed utterly since last mght He took courage 
‘How is the place where that stone hit you?’ 

She held her arm out to him and let him take it Her air was gentle, even 
submissive He realized that his exploit of last night had made him almost a 
hero in her eyes She could not know how small the danger had really been, and 
she forgave him everything, even Ma Hla May, because he had shown courage 
at the right moment It was the buffalo and the leopard over again His heart 
thumped m his breast. He slipped his hand down her arm and clasped her 
fingers m his own 
‘Elizabeth-’ 

‘Someone will see us!’ she said, and she withdrew her hand, but not angrily 
‘Elizabeth, I’ve something I want to say to you Do you remember a letter I 
wrote you from the jungle, after our- some weeks ago?’ 

‘Yes ’ 

‘You remember what I said m it?’ 

‘Yes I’m sorry I didn’t answer it Only-’ 

‘I couldn’t expect you to answer it, then But I just wanted to remind you of 
what I said ’ 

In the letter, of course, he had only said, and feebly enough,that he loved 
her-would always love her, no matter what happened They were standing 
face to face, very close together. On an impulse-and it was so swiftly done that 
, afterwards he had difficulty m believing that it had ever happened-he took her 
m his arms and drew her towards him For a moment she yielded and let him 
lift up her face and kiss her, then suddenly she recpiled and shook her head 
Perhaps she was frightened that someone would see them, perhaps it was only 
because his moustache was so wet from the ram Without saying anything 
more she broke from him and hurried away into the Club There was a look of 
distress or compunction m her face, but she did not seem angry 
He followed her more slowly into the Club, and ran into Mr Macgregor, 
who was in a very good humour As soon as he saw Flory he boomed genially, 



Burmese Days 23 3 

‘Aha 1 The conquering hero comes 1 ’ and then, m a more serious vein, offered 
him fresh congratulations Flory improved the occasion by saying a few words 
on behalf of the doctor He painted quite a lively picture of the doctor’s 
heroism in the not ‘He was right m the middle of the crowd, fighting like a 
tiger,’ etc , etc It was not too much exaggerated-for the doctor had certainly 
risked his life Mr Macgregor was impressed, and so were the others when they 
heard of it At all times the testimony of one European can do an Oriental more 
good than that of a thousand of his fellow countrymen, and at this moment 
Flory’s opinion carried weight Practically, the doctor’s good name was 
restored His election to the Club could be taken as assured 

However, it was not finally agreed upon yet, because Flory was returmng to 
camp He set out the same evemng, marching by mght, and he did not see 
Elizabeth again before leaving It was quite safe to travel in the jungle now, for 
the futile rebellion was obviously finished There is seldom any talk of 
rebellion after the rams have started-the Burmans are too busy ploughing, and 
in any case the waterlogged fields are impassable for large bodies of men Flory 
was to return to Kyauktada in ten days, when the padre’s six-weekly visit fell 
due The truth was that he did not care to be in Kyauktada while both 
Elizabeth and Verrall were there And yet, it was strange, but all the 
bitterness-all the obscene, crawling envy that had tormented him before-was 
gone now that he knew she had forgiven him It was only Verrall who stood 
between them now And even the thought of her in Verrall’s arms could hardly 
move him, because he knew that at the worst the affair must have an end 
Verrall, it was quite certain, would never marry Elizabeth, young men of 
Verrall’s stamp do not marry penmless girls met casually at obscure Indian 
stations He was only amusing himself with Elizabeth Presently he would 
desert her, and she would return to him-to Flory It was enough-it was far 
better than he had hoped There is a humility about genuine love that is rather 
horrible m some ways 

U Po Kyin was furiously angry The miserable riot had taken him unawares, 
so far as anything ever took him unawares, and it was like a handful of grit 
thrown into the machinery of his plans The business of disgracing the doctor 
had got to be begun all over again Begun it was, sure enough, with such a spate 
of anonymous letters that Hla Pe had to absent himself from office for two 
whole days-it was bronchitis this time-to get them written The doctor was 
accused of every crime from pederasty to stealmg Government postage 
stamps The prison warder who had let Nga Shwe O escape had now come up 
for trial He was triumphantly acquitted, U Po Kyin having spent as much as 
two hundred rupees in bribing the witnesses. More letters showered up on Mr 
Macgregor, proving lh ^detail that Dr Veraswami, the real author of the escape, 
had tried to shift the blame on to a helpless subordinate. Nevertheless, the 
results were disappointing. The confidential letter which Mr Macgregor wrote 
to the Commissioner, reporting on the not, was steamed open, and its tone was 
so alarmmg-Mr Macgregor had spoken of the doctor as "behaving most 
creditably’ on the mght of the not—that 0 Po Kym called a council of war. 

‘The tune has come for a vigorous move,’ he said to the others-they wore m 



2 34 Burmese Days 

conclave on the front veranda, before breakfast Ma Kin was there, and Ba 
Sem and Hla Pe-the latter a bright-faced, promising boy of eighteen, with the 
manner of one who will certainly succeed m life 

‘We are hammering against a brick wall,’ U Po Kyin continued, ‘and that 
wall is Flory Who could have foreseen that that miserable coward would stand 
by his friend? However, there it is So long as Veras wami has his backing, we 
are helpless ’ 

‘I have been talking to the Club butler, sir,’ said Ba Sem ‘He tells me that 
Mr Ellis and Mr Westfield still do not want the doctor to be elected to the 
Club Do you not think they will quarrel with Flory again as soon as this 
busmess of the riot is forgotten?’ 

‘Of course they will quarrel, they always quarrel But m the meantime the 
harm is done Just suppose that man were elected 1 1 believe I should die of rage 
if it happened No, there is only one move left We must strike at Flory 
himself i’ 

‘At Flory, sir* But he is a white man 1 ’ 

‘What do I care? I have ruined white men before now Once let Flory be 
disgraced, and there is an end of the doctor And he shall be disgraced! I will 
shame him so that he will never dare show his face in that Club again 1 ’ 

‘But, sir 1 A white man’ What are we to accuse him oP Who would believe 
anything against a white man?’ 

‘Y ou have no strategy, Ko Ba Sem One does not accuse a white man, one has 
got to catch him in the act Public disgrace, m flagrante delicto I shall know 
how to set about it Now be silent while I think ’ 

There was a pause U Po Kym stood gazing out into the rain with his small 
hands clasped behind him and resting on the natural plateau of his posterior 
The other three watched him from the end of the veranda, almost frightened 
by this talk of attacking a white man, and waiting for some masterstroke to 
cope with a situation that was beyond them It was a little like the familiar 
picture (is it Meissonier’s?) of Napoleon at Moscow, poring over his maps 
while his marshals wait m silence, with their cocked hats m their hands But of 
course U Po Kym was more equal to the situation than Napoleon His plan was 
ready within two minutes When he turned round his vast face was suffused 
with excessive joy The doctor had been mistaken when he described U Po 
Kyin as attempting to dance, U Po Kyin’s figure was not designed for dancing, 
but, had it been so designed, he would have danced at this moment He 
beckofted to Ba Sem and whispered m his ear for a few seconds 
‘That is the correct move, I think?’ he concluded 
Abroad, unwilling, incredulous grin stole slowly across Ba Sem’s face 
‘Fifty rupees ought to cover all the expenses,’ added U Po Kym, beaming 
The plan was unfolded in detail And when the others had taken it in, all of 
them, even Ba Sein, who seldom laughed, even Ma Km, who disapproved 
from the bottom of her soul, burst into irrepressible peals of laughter The 
plan was really too good to be resisted It was genius. 

Ail the while it was raining, raining The day after Flory went back to camp 
it rained for thirty-eight hours at a stretch, sometimes slowing to the pace of 



Burmese Days 2 33 

English ram, sometimes pouring down in such cataracts that one thought the 
whole ocean must by now have been sucked up into the clouds The rattling on 
the roof became maddening after a few hours In the intervals between the ram 
the sun glared as fiercely as ever, the mud began to crack and steam, and 
patches of prickly heat sprang out all over one’s body Hordes of flying beetles 
had emerged from their cocoons as soon as the ram started, there was a plague 
of loathly creatures known as stink-bugs, which invaded the houses m 
incredible numbers, littered themselves over the dming-table and made one’s 
food uneatable Verrall and Elizabeth still went out riding in the evenings, 
when the rain was not too fierce To Verrall, all climates were alike, but he did 
not like to see his pomes plastered with mud Nearly a week went by Nothing 
was changed between them-they were neither less nor more intimate than 
they had been before The proposal of marriage, still confidently expected, was 
still unuttered Then an alarming thing happened The news filtered to the 
Club, through Mr Macgregor, that Verrall was leaving Kyauktada, the 
Military Police were to be kept at Kyauktada, but another officer was coming 
in Verrall’s place, no one was certain when Elizabeth was m horrible suspense 
Surely, if he was going away, he must say something definite soon? She could 
not question him-dared not even ask him whether he was really going, she 
could only wait for him to speak He said nothing Then one evening, without 
warning, he failed to turn up at the Club And two whole days passed during 
which Elizabeth did not see him at all 

It was dreadful, but there was nothing that could be done Verrall and 
Elizabeth had been inseparable for weeks, and yet m a way they were almost 
strangers He had kept himself so aloof from them all-had never even seen the 
inside of the Lackersteens’ house They did not know him well enough to seek 
him out at the da&bungalow, or write to him, nor did he reappear at morning 
parade on the maidan There was nothing to do except wait until he chose to 
present himself again And when he did, would he ask her to marry him? 
Surely, surely he must* Both Elizabeth and her aunt (but neither of them had 
even spoken of it openly) held it as an article of faith that he must ask her 
Elizabeth looked forward to their next meeting with a hope that was almost 
painful Please God it would be a week at least before he went’ If she rode with 
him four times more, or three times -even if it were only twice, all might yet be 
well Please God he would come back to her soon* It was unthinkable that 
when he came, it would only be to say good-bye* The two women went down 
to the Club each evening and sat there until quite late, listening for Verrall’s 
footsteps outside while seeming not to listen, but he never appeared Ellis, who 
understood the situation perfectly, watched Elizabeth with spiteful 
amusement What made it worst of all was that Mr Lackersteen was now 
pestering Elizabeth unceasingly He had become quite reckless Almost under 
the eyes of the servants he would waylay her, catch hold of her and begin pinch- 
ing and fondling her in the most revolting way Her sole defence was to threaten 
that she would tell her aunt, happily he was too stupid to realize that she would 
never dare do it 

On the third morning Elizabeth and her aunt arrived at the Club just m time 



2 36 Burmese Days 

to escape a violent storm of rain They had been sitting m the lounge for a few 
minutes when they heard the sound of someone stamping the water off his 
shoes m the passage Each woman’s heart stirred, for this might be Verrall 
Then a young man entered the lounge, unbuttoning a long raincoat as he came 
He was a stout, rollicking, chuckle-headed youth of about twenty-five, with fat 
fresh cheeks, butter-coloured hair, no forehead, and, as it turned out 
afterwards, a deafening laugh 

Mrs Lacker steen made some inarticulate sound-it was jerked out of her by 
her disappointment The youth, however, hailed them with immediate 
bonhomie, being one of those who are on terms of slangy intimacy with 
everyone from the moment of meeting them 
‘Hullo, hullo 1 ’ he said ‘Enter the fairy prince' Hope I don’t sort of intrude 
and all that? Not shoving m on any family gatherings or anything?’ 

‘Not at all 1 ’ said Mrs Lacker steen m surprise 

‘What I mean to say-thought I’d just pop in at the Club and have a glance 
round, don’t you know Just to get acclimatized to the local brand of whisky I 
only got here last night ’ 

‘Are you stationed here?’ said Mrs Lackersteen, mystified-for they had not 
been expecting any newcomers 

‘Yes, rather Pleasure’s mine, entirely ’ 

‘But we hadn’t heard Oh, of course' I suppose you’re from the Forest 
Department? In place of poor Mr Maxwell?’ 

‘What? Forest Department? No fear' I’m the new Military Police bloke, you 
know ’ 

‘The-what?’ 

‘New Military Police bloke Taking over from dear ole Verrall The dear ole 
chap got orders to go back to his regiment Going off in a fearful hurry And a 
nice mess he’s left everything m for yours truly, too ’ 

The Military Policeman was a crass youth, but even he noticed that 
Elizabeth’s face turned suddenly sickly She found herself quite unable to 
speak It was several seconds before Mrs Lackersteen managed to exclaim 
‘Mr Verrall-gomg? Surely he isn’t going away yet*’ 

‘Going? He’s gone'’ 

‘Gowe?’ 

‘Well, what I mean to say-train’s due to start in about half an hour He’ll be 
along at the station now, I sent a fatigue party to look after him Got to get his 
ponies aboard and all that ’ 

There were probably further explanations, but neither Elizabeth nor her 
aunt heard a word of them In any case, without even a good-bye to the 
Military Policeman, they were out on the front steps within fifteen seconds 
Mrs Lackersteen called sharply for the butler 
‘Butler' Send my rickshaw round to the front at once' To the station, jaW’ 
she added as the nckshaw-man appeared, and, having settled herself in the 
rickshaw, poked him in the back with the ferrule of her umbrella to start him 
Elizabeth had put on her raincoat and Mrs Lackersteen was cowering in the 
nckshaw behind her umbrella, but neither was much use against the ram It 



Burmese Days 2 37 

came driving towards them in such sheets that Elizabeth’s frock was soaked 
before they had reached the gate, and the rickshaw almost overturned m the 
wind The rickshaw- wallah put his head down and struggled into it, groaning 
Elizabeth was m agony It was a mistake, surely it was a mistake He had 
written to her and the letter had gone astray That was it, that must be it' It 
could not be that he had meant to leave her without even saying good-bye 1 And 
if it were so-no, not even then would she give up hope 1 When he saw her on the 
platform, for the last time, he could not be so brutal as to forsake her 1 As they 
neared the station she fell behind the rickshaw and pinched her cheeks to bring 
the blood into them A squad of Military Police sepoys shuffled hurriedly by, 
their thin uniforms sodden into rags, pushing a handcart among them Those 
would be Verrall’s fatigue party Thank God, there was a quarter of an hour 
yet The train was not due to leave for another quarter of an hour Thank God, 
at least, for this last chance of seeing him 1 
They arrived on the platform just m time to see the tram draw out of the 
station and gather speed with a series of deafemng snorts The stationmaster, a 
little round, black man, was standing on the line looking ruefully after the 
tram, and holding his waterproof-covered topi on to his head with one hand, 
while with the other he fended off two clamorous Indians who were bobbing at 
him and trying to thrust something upon his attention Mrs Lackersteen 
leaned out of the rickshaw and called agitatedly through the ram 
‘Stationmaster 1 ’ 

‘Madam 1 ’ 

‘What tram is that’’ 

‘That is the Mandalay tram, madam ’ 

‘The Mandalay tram 1 It can’t be 1 ’ 

‘But I assure you, madam' It is precisely the Mandalay tram ’ He came 
towards them, removing his topi 

‘But Mr Verrall-the Police officer’ Surely he’s not on it? 

‘Yes, madam, he have departed ’ He waved his hand towards the tram, now 
receding rapidly in a cloud of ram and steam 
‘But the train wasn’t due to start yet 1 ’ 

‘No, madam Not due to start for another ten minutes ’ 

‘Then why has it gone’’ 

The stationmaster waved his topi apologetically from side to side His dark, 
squabby face looked quite distressed 

‘I know, madam, I know' Most unprecedented' But the young Military 
Police officer have positively commanded me to start the train' He declare that 
all is ready and he do not wish to be kept waiting I point out the irregularity 
He say he do not care about irregularity I expostulate He insist And in 
short-’ 

He made another gesture It meant that Verrall was the kind of man who 
would have his way, even when it came to starting a train ten minutes early 
There was a pause The two Indians, imagining that they saw their chance, 
suddenly rushed forward, wailing, and offered some grubby notebooks for 
Mrs Lackersteen 5 s inspection 



2 38 Burmese Days 

‘What do these men want’’ cried Mrs Lackersteen distractedly 
‘They are grass-wallahs, madam They say that Lieutenant Verrall have 
departed owing them large sums of money One for hay, the other for corn Of 
mine it is no affair ’ 

There was a hoot from the distant tram It rolled round the bend, like a 
black-behinded caterpillar that looks over its shoulder as it goes, and vanished 
The stationmaster’s wet white trousers flapped forlornly about his legs 
Whether Verrall had started the train early to escape Elizabeth, or to escape 
the grass-wallahs, was an interesting question that was never cleared up 
They made their way back along the road, and then struggled up the hill in 
such a wind that sometimes they were driven several paces backwards When 
they gained the veranda they were quite out of breath The servants took their 
streaming raincoats, and Elizabeth shook some of the water from her hair Mrs 
Lackersteen broke her silence for the first time since they had left the station 
‘ Well ' Of all the unmannerly-of the simply abominable •’ 

Elizabeth looked pale and sickly, m spite of the ram and wind that had 
beaten into her face But she would betray nothing 
‘I think he might have waited to say good-bye to us,’ she said coldly 
‘Take my word for it, dear, you are thoroughly well rid of him' As I said 
from the start, a most odious young man 1 ’ 

Some time later, when they were sitting down to breakfast, having bathed 
and got into dry clothes, and feeling better, she remarked 
‘Let me see, what day is this’’ 

‘Saturday, Aunt ’ 

‘Ah, Saturday Then the dear padre will be arriving this evemng How many 
shall we be for the service tomorrow’ Why, I think we shall all be here 1 How 
very nice* Mr Flory will be here too I think he said he was coming back from 
the jungle tomorrow ’ She added almost lovingly, ‘ Dear Mr Flory r ’ 



It was nearly six o’clock m the evemng, and the absurd bell in the six-foot tm 
steeple of the church went clank-clank, clank-clank^ as old Mattu pulled the 
rope within The rays of the setting sun, refracted by distant rainstorms, 
flooded the maidan with a beautiful, lurid light It had been raining earlier in 
the day, and would ram again The Christian community of Kyauktada, fifteen 
in number, were gathering at the church door for the evemng service 
Flory was already there, and Mr Macgregor, grey topi and all, and Mr 
Francis and Mr Samuel, frisking about m freshly laundered drill suits- for the 
six-weekly church service was the great social event of their lives The padre, a 
tall man with grey hair and a refined, discoloured face, wearing pince-nez, was 
standing on the church steps in his cassock and surplice, which he had put on 



Burmese Pays 2 39 

in Mr Macgregor’s house He was smiling m an amiable but rather helpless 
way at four pink-cheeked Karen Christians who had come to make their bows 
to him, for he did not speak a word of their language nor they of his There was 
one other Oriental Christian, a mournful, dark Indian of uncertain race, who 
stood humbly m the background He was always present at the church 
services, but no one knew who he was or why he was a Christian Doubtless he 
had been captured and baptized m infancy by the missionaries, for Indians 
who are converted when adults almost invariably lapse 
Flory could see Elizabeth coming down the hill, dressed m lilac-colour, with 
her aunt and uncle He had seen her that morning at the Club-they had had 
just a minute alone together before the others came in He had only asked her 
one question 

‘Has Verrall gone-for good?’ 

‘Yes’ 

There had been no need to say any more He had simply taken her by the 
arms and drawn her towards him She came willingly, even gladly-there in the 
clear daylight, merciless to his disfigured face For a moment she had clung to 
him almost like a child It was a though he had saved her or protected her from 
something He raised her face to kiss her, and found with surprise that she was 
crying There had been no time to talk then, not even to say, ‘Will you marry 
me?’ No matter, after the service there would be time enough Perhaps at his 
next visit, only six weeks hence, the padre would marry them 
Ellis and Westfield and the new Military Policeman were approaching from 
the Club, where they had been having a couple of quick ones to last them 
through the service The Forest Officer who had been sent to take Maxwell’s 
place, a sallow, tall man, completely bald except for two whisker-like tufts in 
front of his ears, was following them Flory had not time to say more than 
‘Good evening’ to Elizabeth when she arrived Mattu, seeing that everyone 
was present, stopped ringing the bell, and the clergyman led the way inside, 
followed by Mr Macgregor, with his topi against his stomach, and the 
Lackersteens and the native Christians Ellis pinched Flory’s elbow and 
whispered boozily in his ear 

‘Come on, lme up Time for the snivel-parade Quick march 1 ’ 

He and the Military Policeman went in behind the others, arm-m-arm, with 
a dancing step-the policeman, till they got inside, wagging his fat behind m 
imitation of a pwe - dancer Flory sat down in the same pew as these two, 
opposite Elizabeth, on her right. It was the first time that he had ever risked 
sitting with his birthmark towards her ‘Shut your eyes and count twenty-five’ 
whispered Ellis as they sat down, drawing a snigger from the policeman Mrs 
Lackersteen had already taken her place at the harmonium, which was no 
bigger than a writing-desk Mattu stationed himself by the door and began to 
pull the punkah-it was so arranged that it only flapped over the front pews, 
where the Europeans sat Flo came nosing up the aisle, found Flory’s pew and 
settled down underneath it The service began 
Flory was only attending intermittently He was dimly aware of standing 
and kneeling and muttering ‘Amen’ to interminable prayers, and of Ellis 



240 Burmese Days 

nudging him and whispering blasphemies behind his hymn book But he was 
too happy to collect his thoughts Hell was yielding up Eurydice The yellow 
light flooded m through the open door, gilding the broad back of Mr 
Macgregor’s silk coat like cloth-of-gold Elizabeth, across the narrow aisle, 
was so close to Flory that he could hear every rustle of her dress and feel, as it 
seemed to him, the warmth of her body, yet he would not look at her even once, 
lest the others should notice it The harmonium quavered bronchitically as 
Mrs Lackersteen struggled to pump sufficient air into it with the sole pedal 
that worked The singing was a queer, ragged noise-an earnest booming from 
Mr Macgregor, a kind of shamefaced muttering from the other Europeans, 
and from the back a loud, wordless lowing, for the Karen Christians knew the 
tunes of the hymns but not the words 

They were kneeling down again ‘More bloody knee-drill,’ Ellis whispered 
The air darkened, and there was a light patter of ram on the roof, the trees 
outside rustled, and a cloud of yellow leaves whirled past the window Flory 
watched them through the chinks of his fingers Twenty years ago, on winter 
Sundays in his pew in the parish church at home, he used to watch the yellow 
leaves, as at this moment, drifting and fluttering against leaden skies Was it 
not possible, now, to begin over again as though those grimy years had never 
touched him? Through his fingers he glanced sidelong at Elizabeth, kneeling 
with her head bent and her face hidden m her youthful, mottled hands When 
they were married, when they were married' What fun they would have 
together m this alien yet kindly land' He saw Elizabeth m his camp, greeting 
him as he came home tired from work and Ko S’la hurried from the tent with a 
bottle of beer, he saw her walking in the forest with him, watching the 
hornbills in the peepul trees and picking nameless flowers, and in the marshy 
grazing-grounds, tramping through the cold-weather mist after snipe and teal 
He saw his home as she would remake it He saw his drawing-room, sluttish 
and bachelor-like no longer, with new furniture from Rangoon, and a bowl of 
pink balsams like rosebuds on the table, and books and water-colours and a 
black piano Above all the piano' His mind lingered upon the piano-symbol, 
perhaps because he was unmusical, of civilized and settled life He was 
delivered for ever from the sub-life of the past decade-the debaucheries, the 
lies, the pain of exile and solitude, the dealings with whores and money- 
lenders and pukka sahibs 

The clergyman stepped to the small wooden lectern that also served as a 
pulpit, slipped the band from a roll of sermon paper, coughed, and announced 
a text ‘In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost Amen ’ 

‘Cut it short, for Christ’s sake,’ murmured Ellis 

Flory did not notice how many mmutes passed The words of the sermon 
flowed peacefully through his head, an indistinct burbling sound, almost 
unheard When they were married, he was still thinking, when they were 
married- 

Hullo' What was happening? 

The clergyman had stopped short m the middle of a word He had taken off 
his pineernez and was shaking them with a distressed air at someone m the 



Burmese Days 241 

doorway There was a fearful, raucous scream 
c Pike-san pay-hke f Pike-san pay-hke r 

Everyone jumped m their seats and turned round It was Ma Hla May As 
they turned she stepped inside the church and shoved old Mattu violently 
aside She shook her fist at Flory 

£ Pike-san pay -like 1 Pike-san pay-like f Yes, that’s the one I mean— Flory, 
Flory' (She pronounced it Porley ) That one sitting in front there, with the 
black hair' Turn round and face me, you coward' Where is the money you 
promised me?’ 

She was shrieking like a maniac The people gaped at her, too astounded to 
move or speak Her face was grey with powder, her greasy hair was tumbling 
down, her longyi was ragged at the bottom She looked like a screaming hag of 
the bazaar Flory’s bowels seemed to have turned to ice Oh God, God' Must 
they know-must Elizabeth know-that that was the woman who had been his 
mistress? But there was not a hope, not the vestige of a hope, of any mistake 
She had screamed his name over and over again Flo, hearing the familiar 
voice, wriggled from under the pew, walked down the aisle and wagged her tail 
at Ma Hla May The wretched woman was yelling out a detailed account of 
what Flory had done to her 

‘Look at me, you white men, and you women, too, look at me' Look how he 
has ruined me' Look at these rags I am wearing' And he is sitting there, the 
liar, the coward, pretending not to see me' He would let me starve at his gate 
like a pariah dog Ah, but I will shame you' Turn round and look at me' Look 
at this body that you have kissed a thousand times-look-look-’ 

She began actually to tear her clothes open-the last insult of a base-born 
Burmese woman The harmonium squeaked as Mrs Lackersteen made a 
convulsive movement People had at last found their wits and began to stir 
The clergyman, who had been bleating ineffectually, recovered his voice, 
‘Take that woman outside ' 5 he said sharply 
Flory’s face was ghastly After the first moment he had turned his head away 
from the door and set his teeth in a desperate effort to look unconcerned But it 
was useless, quite useless His face was as yellow as bone, and the sweat 
glistened on his forehead Francis and Samuel, doing perhaps the first useful 
deed of their lives, suddenly sprang from their pew, grabbed Ma Hla May by 
the arms and hauled her outside, still screaming 

It seemed very silent in the church when they had finally dragged her out of 
hearing The scene had been so violent, so squalid, that everyone was upset by 
it Even Ellis looked disgusted Flory could neither speak nor stir. He sat 
staring fixedly at the altar, his face rigid and so bloodless that the birth-mark 
seemed to glow upon it like a streak of blue paint Elizabeth glanced across the 
aisle at him, and her revulsion made her almost physically sick. She had not 
understood a word of what Ma Hla May was saying, but the meaning of the 
scene was perfectly clear The thought that he had been the lover of that grey- 
faced, maniacal creature made her shudder in her bones. But worse than that, 
worse than anything, was his ugliness at this moment His face appalled her, it 
was so ghastly, rigid and old. It was like a skull. Only the birthmark seemed 



242 Burmese Days 

alive in it She hated him now for his birthmark She had never known till this 
moment how dishonouring, how unforgivable a thing it was 
Like the crocodile, U Po Kym had struck at the weakest spot For, needless 
to say, this scene was U Po Kyin’s doing He had seen his chance, as usual, and 
tutored Ma Hla May for her part with considerable care The clergyman 
brought his sermon to an end almost at once As soon as it was over Flory 
hurried outside, not looking at any of the others It was getting dark, thank 
God At fifty yards from the church he halted, and watched the others making 
in couples for the Club It seemed to him that they were hurrying Ah, they 
would, of coursel There would be something to talk about at the Club tonight 1 
Flo rolled belly-upwards against his ankles, asking for a game ‘Get out, you 
bloody brute*’ he said, and kicked her Elizabeth had stopped at the church 
door Mr Macgregor, happy chance, seemed to be introducing her to the 
clergyman In a moment the two men went on in the direction of Mr 
Macgregor’s house, where the clergyman was to stay for the night, and 
Elizabeth followed the others, thirty yards behind them Flory ran after her 
and caught up with her almost at the Club gate 
‘Elizabeth*’ 

She looked round, saw him, turned white, and would have hurried on 
without a word But his anxiety was too great, and he caught her by the wrist 
‘Elizabeth* I must- I’ve got to speak to you*’ 

‘Let me go, will you*’ 

They began to struggle, and then stopped abruptly Two of the Karens who 
had come out of the church were standing fifty yards away, gazing at them 
through the half-darkness with deep interest Flory began again m a lower 
tone 

‘Elizabeth, I know I’ve no right to stop you like this But I must speak to 
you, I must* Please hear what I’ve got to say Please don’t run away from me*’ 
‘What are you doing 5 Why are you holding on to my arm 5 Let me go this 
instant*’ 

‘I’ll let you go-there, look* But do listen to me, please* Answer me this one 
thing After what’s happened, can you ever forgive me 5 ’ 

‘Forgive you 5 What do you mean } forgive you 5 ’ 

‘I know I’m disgraced It was the vilest thing to happen* Only, in a sense it 
wasn’t my fault You’ll see that when you’re calmer Do you thmk-not now, it 
was too bad, but later- do you think you can forget it?’ 

‘I really don’t know what you’re talking about Forget it 5 What has it got to 
do with me> I thought it was very disgusting, but it’s not my business I can’t 
think why you’re questiomng me like this at all ’ 

He almost despaired at that Her tone and even her words were the very 
ones she had used in that earlier quarrel of theirs It was the same move over 
again. Instead of hearing him out she was going to evade him and put him 
off-snub him by pretending that he had no claim upon her 
‘Elizabeth! Please answer me Please be fair to me* It’s serious this time I 
don’t expect you to take me back all at once You couldn’t, when I’m publicly 
disgraced like this But, after all, you virtually promised to marry me-’ 



Burmese Days 243 

‘What 1 Promised to marry you? When did I promise to marry >ou?’ 

‘Not in words, I know But it was understood between us ’ 

‘Nothing of the kind was understood between us' I think you are behaving in 
the most horrible way I’m going along to the Club at once Good evening' ’ 
‘Elizabeth' Elizabeth' Listen It’s not fair to condemn me unheard You 
knew before what I’d done, and you knew that I’d lived a different life since I 
met you What happened this evening was only an accident That wretched 
woman, who, I admit, was once my- well-’ 

‘I won’t listen, I won’t listen to such things' I’m going 1 ’ 

He caught her by the wrists again, and this time held her The Karens had 
disappeared, fortunately 

‘No, no, you shall hear me' I’d rather offend you to the heart than have this 
uncertainty It’s gone on week after week, month after month, and I’ve never 
once been able to speak straight out to you You don’t seem to know or care 
how much you make me suffer But this time you’ve got to answer me ’ 

She struggled m his grip, and she was surprisingly strong Her face was 
more bitterly angry than he had ever seen or imagined it She hated him so that 
she would have struck him if her hands were free 
‘Let me go' Oh, you beast, you beast, let me go' 5 

‘My God, my God, that we should fight like this' But what else can I do? I 
can’t let you go without even hearing me Elizabeth, you must listen to me 1 ’ 

‘I will not' I will not discuss it' What right have you to question me? Let me go 1 ’ 
‘Forgive me, forgive me' This one question Will you-not now, but later, 
when this vile business is forgotten-will you marry me?’ 

‘No, never, never'’ 

‘Don’t say it like that' Don’t make it final Say no for the present if you 
like-but in a month, a year, five years-’ 

‘Haven’t I said no? Why must you keep on and on?’ 

‘Elizabeth, listen to me I’ve tried again and again to tell you what you mean 
to me-oh, it’s so useless talking about it' But do try and understand Haven’t I 
told you something of the life we live here? The sort of horrible death-m- 
life' The decay, the loneliness, the self-pity? Try and realize what it means, 
and that you’re the sole person on earth who could save me from it ’ 

‘Will you let me go? Why do you have to make this dreadful scene?’ 

‘Does it mean nothing to you when I say that I love you? I don’t believe 
you’ve ever realized what it is that I want from you If you like, I’d marry you 
and promise never even touch you with my finger I wouldn’t mind even that, 
so long as you were with me But I can’t go on with my life alone, always alone 
Can’t you bring yourself ever to forgive me?’ 

‘Never, never' I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on earth I’d as 
soon marry the-the sweeper*’ 

She had begun crying now He saw that she meant what she said The tears 
came into his own eyes He said again* 

‘For the last time Remember that it’s something to have one person in the 
world who loves you Remember that though you’ll find men who are richer, 
and younger, and better in every way than I, you’ll never find one who cares 



244 Burmese Days 

for you so much And though I’m not rich, at least I could make you a home 
There’s a way of livmg-civilized, decent-’ 

‘Haven’t we said enough?’ she said more calmly ‘Will you let me go before 
somebody comes?’ 

He relaxed his grip on her wrists He had lost her, that was certain Like a 
hallucination, painfully clear, he saw again their home as he had imagined it, 
he saw their garden, and Elizabeth feeding Nero and the pigeons on the drive 
by the sulphur-yellow phloxes that grew as high as her shoulder, and the 
drawing-room, with the water-colours on the walls, and the balsams in the 
china bowl mirrored by the table, and the book-shelves, and the black piano 
The impossible, mythical piano- symbol of everything that that futile accident 
had wrecked 1 

‘You should have a piano,’ he said despairingly 
‘I don’t play the piano ’ 

He let her go It was no use continuing She was no sooner free of him than 
she took to her heels and actually ran into the Club garden, so hateful was his 
presence to her Among the trees she stopped to take off her spectacles and 
remove the signs of tears from her face Oh, the beast, the beast 1 He had hurt 
her wrists abominably Oh, what an unspeakable beast he was 1 When she 
thought of his face as it had looked in church, yellow and glistening with the 
hideous birthmark upon it, she could have wished him dead It was not what 
he had done that horrified her He might have committed a thousand 
abominations and she could have forgiven him But not after that shameful, 
squalid scene, and the devilish ugliness of his disfigured face in that moment 
It was, finally, the birthmark that had damned him 
Her aunt would be furious when she heard that she had refused Flory And 
there was her uncle and his leg-pmching-between the two of them, life here 
would become impossible Perhaps she would have to go Home unmarried 
after all Black beetles' No matter Anything- spinsterhood, drudgery, 
anything-sooner than the alternative Never, never, would she yield to a man 
who had been so disgraced' Death sooner, far sooner If there had been 
mercenary thoughts in her mind an hour ago, she had forgotten them She did 
not even remember that Verrall had jilted her and that to have married Flory 
would have saved her face She knew only that he was dishonoured and less 
than a man, and that she hated him as she would have hated a leper or a lunatic. 
The instinct was deeper than reason or even self-interest, and she could no 
more have disobeyed it than she could have stopped breathing 
Flory, as he turned up the hill, did not run, but he walked as fast as he could 
What he had to do must be done quickly It was getting very dark The 
wretched Flo, who even now had not grasped that anything serious was the 
matter, trotted close to his heels, whimpering m a self-pitymg manner to 
reproach him for the kick he had given her As he came up the path a wind blew 
through the plamtain trees*, rattling the tattered leaves and bringing a scent of 
damp It was going to ram again Ko S’la had laid the dinner-table and was 
removing some flying beetles that had committed suicide against the petrol- 
lamp .Evidently he had not heard about the scene in church yet 



Burmese Days 24 5 

‘The holy one’s dinner is ready Will the holy one dme now’’ 

‘No, not yet Give me that lamp ’ 

He took the lamp, went into the bedroom and shut the door, The stale scent 
of dust and cigarette-smoke met him, and m the white, unsteady glare of the 
lamp he could see the mildewed books and the lizards on the wall So he was 
back again to this-to the old, secret life-after everything, back where he had 
been before 

Was it not possible to endure it 1 He had endured it before There were 
palliatives-books, his garden, drink, work, whoring, shooting, conversations 
with the doctor 

No, it was not endurable any longer, Since Elizabeth’s coming the power to 
suffer and above all to hope, which he had thought dead m him, had sprung to 
new life The half-comfortable lethargy m which he had lived was broken And 
if he suffered now, there was far worse to come In a little while someone else 
would marry her How he could picture it-the moment when he heard the 
news 1 -‘Did you hear the Lackersteen kid’s got off at last’ Poor old So-and- 
so-booked for the altar, God help him,’ etc , etc And the casual question- ‘Oh, 
really’ When is it to be’’-stiffenmg one’s face, pretending to be uninterested 
And then her wedding day approaching, her bridal mght-ah, not that' 
Obscene, obscene Keep your eyes fixed on that Obscene He dragged his tm 
uniform-case from under the bed, took out his automatic pistol, slid a clip of 
cartridges into the magazine, and pulled one into the breech 

Ko S’la was remembered in his will There remained Flo He laid his pistol 
on the table and went outside Flo was playing with Ba Shm, Ko S’la’s 
youngest son, under the lee of the cookhouse, where the servants had left the 
remains of a woodfire She was dancing round him with her small teeth bared, 
pretending to bite him, while the tiny boy, his belly red m the glow of the 
embers, smacked weakly at her, laughing, and yet half frightened 

‘Flo* Come here, Flo 1 ’ 

She heard him and came obediently, and then stopped short at the bedroom 
door She seemed to have grasped now that there was something wrong She 
backed a little and stood looking timorously up at him, unwilling to enter the 
bedroom, 

‘Come in here 1 ’ 

She wagged her tail, but did not move 

‘Come on, Flo' Good old Flo! Come on 1 ’ 

Flo was suddenly stricken with terror She whined, her tail went down, and 
she shrank back ‘Come here, blast you’’ he cried, and he took her by the collar 
and flung her into the room, shutting the door behind her He went to the table 
for the pistol 

‘No come here r Do as you’re told*’ 

She crouched down and whined for forgiveness, It hurt him to hear it, 
‘Come on, old girl! Dear old Flo* Master wouldn’t hurt you. Come here*’ She 
crawled very slowly towards his feet, flat on her belly, whining, her head down 
as though afraid to look at him. When she was a yard away he fired, blowing 
her skull to fragments 



246 Burmese Days 

Her shattered brain looked like red velvet Was that what he would look like? 
The heart, then, not the head He could hear the servants running out of their 
quarters and shoutmg-they must have heard the sound of the shot He 
hurriedly tore open his coat and pressed the muzzle of the pistol against his 
shirt A tmy lizard, translucent like a creature of gelatine, was stalking a white 
moth along the edge of the table Flory pulled the trigger with his thumb 

As Ko S’la burst into the room, for a moment he saw nothing but the dead 
body of the dog Then he saw his master’s feet, heels upwards, projecting from 
beyond the bed He yelled to the others to keep the children out of the room, 
and all of them surged back from the doorway with screams Ko S’la fell on his 
knees behind Flory’ s body, at the same moment as Ba Pe came running 
through the veranda 

‘Has he shot himselP’ 

‘I think so Turn him over on his back Ah, look at that 1 Run for the Indian 
doctor 1 Run for your life 1 ’ 

There was a neat hole, no bigger than that made by a pencil passing through 
a sheet of blotting-paper, in Flory’ s shirt He was obviously quite dead With 
great difficulty Ko S’la managed to drag him on to the bed, for the other 
servants refused to touch the body It was only twenty minutes before the 
doctor arrived He had heard only a vague report that Flory was hurt, and had 
bicycled up the hill at top speed through a storm of rain He threw his bicycle 
down m the flower-bed and hurried m through the veranda He was out of 
breath, and could not see through his spectacles He took them off, peering 
myopically at the bed ‘What iss it, my friend?’ he said anxiously ‘Where are 
you hurt?’ Then, coming closer, he saw what was on the bed, and uttered a 
harsh sound 

‘Ach, what is this? What has happened to him?’ 

The doctor fell on his knees, tore Flory’ s shirt open and put his ear to his 
chest An expression of agony came into his face, and he seized the dead man 
by the shoulders and shook him as though mere violence could bring him to 
life One arm fell limply over the edge of the bed The doctor lifted it back 
again, and then, with the dead hand between his own, suddenly burst into 
tears Ko S’la was standing at the foot of the bed, his brown face full of lines 
The doctor stood up, and then losing control of himself for a moment, leaned 
against the bedpost and wept noisily and grotesquely his back turned on Ko 
S’la His fat shoulders were quivering Presently he recovered himself and 
turned round again 

‘How did this happen?’ 

‘We heard two shots. He did it himself, that is certain I do not know why ’ 

‘How did you know that he did it on purpose? How do you know that it was 
not an accident?’ 

For answer, Ko S’la pointed silently to Flo’s corpse The doctor thought for 
a moment, and then, with gentle, practised hands, swathed the dead man in the 
sheet and knotted it at foot and head With death, the birthmark had faded 
immediately, so that it was no more than a faint grey stain 

‘Bury the dog at once I will tell Mr Macgregor that this happened 



Burmese Days 247 

accidentally while he was cleaning his revolver Be sure that you bury the dog 
Your master was my friend It shall not be written on his tombstone that he 
committed suicide * 



It was lucky that the padre should have been at Kyauktada, for he was able, 
before catching the tram on the following evening, to read the burial service in 
due form and even to deliver a short address on the virtues of the dead man All 
Englishmen are virtuous when they are dead ‘Accidental death’ was the 
official verdict (Dr Veraswami had proved with all his medico-legal skill that 
the circumstances pointed to accident) and it was duly inscribed upon the 
tombstone Not that anyone believed it, of course Flory’s real epitaph was the 
remark, very occasionally uttered-for an Englishman who dies in Burma is so 
soon forgotten- ‘ Flory^ Oh yes, he was a dark chap, with a birthmark He shot 
himself in Kyauktada m 1926 Over a girl, people said Bloody fool ’ Probably 
no one, except Elizabeth, was much surprised at what had happened There is 
a rather large number of suicides among the Europeans m Burma, and they 
occasion very little surprise 

Flory’s death had several results The first and most important of them was 
that Dr Veraswami was ruined, even as he had foreseen The glory of being a 
white man’s friend- the one thing that had saved him before-had vanished 
Flory’s standing with the other Europeans had never been good, it is true, but 
he was after all a white man, and his friendship conferred a certain prestige 
Once he was dead, the doctor’s ruin was assured U Po Kym waited the 
necessary time, and then struck again, harder than ever It was barely three 
months before he had fixed it m the head of every European m Kyauktada that 
the doctor was an unmitigated scoundrel No public accusation was ever 
made against him-U Po Kym was most careful of that Even Ellis would have 
been puzzled to say just what scoundrelism the doctor had been guilty of, but 
still, it was agreed that he was a scoundrel By degrees, the general suspicion of 
him crystallized m a single Burmese phrase- ‘shok de? Veraswami, it was said, 
was quite a clever little chap in his way- quite a good doctor for a native- but he 
was thoroughly shok de Shok de means, approximately, untrustworthy, and 
when a ‘native’ official comes to be known as shok de, there is an end of him 

The dreaded nod and wink passed somewhere m high places, and the doctor 
was reverted to the rank of Assistant Surgeon and transferred to Mandalay 
General Hospital He is still there, and is likely to remain, Mandalay is rather a 
disagreeable town-it is dusty and intolerably hot, and it is said to have five 
mam products all beginning with ,P, namely, pagodas, panahs, pigs, priests 
and prostitqtes-and the routine-work of the hospital is a dreary business. The 
doctor lives just outside the hospital, grounds m a little bake-house of a 
bungalow with a corrugated iron fence round its tiny compound, and in the 
evenings he runs a private clinic to supplement, his reduced pay He has joined 



248 Burmese Days 

a second-rate club frequented by Indian pleaders Its chief glory is a single 
European member-a Glasgow electrician named Macdougall, sacked from the 
Irrawaddy Flotilla Company for drunkenness, and now making a precarious 
living out of a garage Macdougall is a dull lout, only interested in whisky and 
magnetos The doctor, who will never believe that a white man can be a fool, 
tries almost every night to engage him m what he still calls ‘cultured 
conversation’, but the results are very unsatisfying 
Ko S’la inherited four hundred rupees under Flory’s will, and with his 
family he set up a tea-shop m the bazaar But the shop failed, as it was bound to 
do with the two women fighting in it at all hours, and Ko S’la and Ba Pe were 
obliged to go back to service Ko S’la was an accomplished servant Besides the 
useful arts of pimping, dealing with money-lenders, carrying master to bed 
when drunk and making pick-me-ups known as prairie oysters on the 
following morning, he could sew, darn, refill cartridges, attend to a horse, 
press a suit, and decorate a dinner-table with wonderful, intricate patterns of 
chopped leaves and dyed rice-grams He was worth fifty rupees a month But 
he and Ba Pe had fallen into lazy ways in Flory’s service, and they were sacked 
from one job after another They had a bad year of poverty, and little Ba Shm 
developed a cough, and finally coughed himself to death one stifling hot- 
weather night Ko S’la is now a second boy to a Rangoon rice-broker with a 
neurotic wife who makes unending kit-kit, and Ba Pe is pani-wallah m the 
same house at sixteen rupees a month Ma Hla May is in a brothel in 
Mandalay Her good looks are all but gone, and her clients pay her only four 
annas and sometimes kick her and beat her. Perhaps more bitterly than any of 
the others, she regrets the good time when Flory was alive, and when she had 
not the wisdom to put aside any of the money she extracted from him 

U Po Kyin realized all his dreams except one After the doctor’s disgrace, it 
was inevitable that U Po Kyin should be elected to the Club, and elected he 
was, in spite of bitter protests from Ellis In the end the other Europeans came 
to be rather glad that they had elected him, for he was a bearable addition to the 
Club He did not come too often, was ingratiating in his manner, stood drinks 
freely, and developed almost at once into a brilliant bridge-player A few 
months later he was transferred from Kyauktada and promoted For a whole 
year, before his retirement, he officiated as Deputy Commissioner, and 
during that year alone he made twenty thousand rupees in bribes A month 
after his retirement he was summoned to a durbar m Rangoon, to receive the 
decoration that had been awarded to him by the Indian Government 
It was an impressive scene, that durbar On the platform, hung with flags 
and flowers, sat the Governor, frock-coated, upon a species of throne, with a 
bevy of aides-de-camp and secretaries behind him All round the hall, like 
glittering waxworks, stood the tall, bearded sowars of the Governor’s 
bodyguard, with pennoned lances in their hands. Outside, a band was blaring 
at intervals The gallery was gay with the white mgyts and pmk scarves of 
Burmese ladies, and m the body of the hall a hundred men or more were 
waiting to receive their decorations There were Burmese officials in blazing 
Mandalay pa$os 3 and Indians m doth-of-gold p^grtS, and British officers in 



Burmese Days 249 

full-dress uniform with clanking sword-scabbards, and old thugyis with their 
grey hair knotted behind their heads and silver-hilted dahs slung from their 
shoulders In a high, clear voice a secretary was reading out the list of awards, 
which varied from the C I E to certificates of honour in embossed silver cases 
Presently U Po Kyin’s turn came and the secretary read from his scroll 
To U Po Kym, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, retired, for long and loyal 
service and especially for his timely aid in crushing a most dangerous rebellion 
in Kyauktada district 5 -and so on and so on 
Then two henchmen, placed there for the purpose hoisted U Po Kyin 
upright, and he waddled to the platform, bowed as low as his belly would 
permit, and was duly decorated and felicitated, while Ma Km and other 
supporters clapped wildly and fluttered their scarves from the gallery 
U Po Kym had done all that mortal man could do It was time now to be 
making ready for the next world-m short, to begin building pagodas But 
unfortunately, this was the very point at which his plans went wrong Only 
three days after the Governor’s durbar, before so much as a brick of those 
atoning pagodas had been laid, U Po Kym wa stricken with apoplexy and died 
without speaking again There is no armour against fate Ma Km was 
heartbroken at the disaster Even if she had built the pagodas herself, it would 
have availed U Po Kym nothing, no merit can be acquired save by one’s own 
act She suffers greatly to think of U Po Kym where he must be 
now-wandering m God knows what dreadful subterranean hell of fire, and 
darkness, and serpents, and genu Or even if he has escaped the worst, his 
other fear has been realized, and he has returned to the earth in the shape of a 
rat or a frog Perhaps at this very moment a snake is devouring him 
As to Elizabeth, things fell out better than she had expected After Flory’s 
death Mrs Lackersteen, dropping all pretences for once, said openly that there 
were no men m this dreadful place and the only hope was to go and stay several 
months in Rangoon or Maymyo But she could not very well send Elizabeth to 
Rangoon or Maymyo alone, and to go with her practically meant condemning 
Mr Lackersteen to death from delirium tremens Months passed, and the rams 
reached their climax, and Elizabeth had just made up her mind that she must 
go home after all, penniless and unmarried, when-Mr Macgregor proposed to 
her He had had it in his mind for a long time, indeed, he had only been waiting 
for a decent interval to elapse after Flory’s death 

Elizabeth accepted him gladly. He was rather old, perhaps, but a Deputy 
Commissioner is not to be despised-certainly he was a far better match than 
Flory. They are very happy Mr Macgregor was always a good-hearted man, 
but he has grown more human and likeable since his marriage His voice booms 
less, and he has given up his morning exercises Elizabeth has grown mature 
surprisingly quickly, and a certain hardness of manner that always belonged to 
her has become accentuated. Her servants live in terror of her, though she 
speaks no Burmese. She has an exhaustive knowledge of the Civil List, gives 
charming little dinner-parties and knows how to put the wives of subordinate 
officials in their places-in short, she fills with complete success the position for 
which Nature had designed her from the first, that of a hurra memsahib 





CHAPTER I 


I 


As the alarm clock on the chest of drawers exploded like a horrid little bomb of 
bell metal, Dorothy, wrenched from the depths of some complex, troubling 
dream, awoke with a start and lay on her back looking mto the darkness m 
extreme exhaustion 

The alarm clock continued its nagging, feminine clamour, which would go 
on for five minutes or thereabouts if you did not stop it Dorothy was aching 
from head to foot, and an insidious and contemptible self-pity, which usually 
seized upon her when it was time to get up m the morning, caused her to bury 
her head under the bedclothes and try to shut the hateful noise out of her ears 
She struggled against her fatigue, however, and, according to her custom, 
exhorted herself sharply in the second person plural Come on, Dorothy, up 
you get 1 No snoozing, please 1 Proverbs vi, 9 Then she remembered that if the 
noise went on any longer it would wake her father, and with a hurried 
movement she bounded out of bed, seized the clock from the chest of drawers, 
and turned off the alarm It was kept on the chest of drawers precisely in order 
that she should have to get out of bed to .silence it Still m darkness, she knelt 
down at her bedside and repeated the Lord’s Prayer, but rather distractedly, 
her feet being troubled by the cold 

It was just half past five, and coldish for an August morning Dorothy (her 
name was Dorothy Hare, and she was the only child of the Reverend Charles 
Hare, Rector of St Athelstan’s, Knype Hill, Suffolk) put on her aged 
flannelette dressing-gown and felt her way downstairs There was a chill 
morning smell of dust, damp plaster, and the fried dabs from yesterday’s 
supper, and from either side of the passage on the second floor she could hear 
the antiphonal snoring of her father and of Ellen, the maid of all work With 
care-for the kitchen table had a nasty trick of reaching out of the darkness and 
banging you on the hip-bone-Dorothy felt her way into the kitchen, lighted 
the candle on the mantelpiece, and, still aching with fatigue, knelt down and 
raked the ashes out of the range 

The kitchen fire was a ‘beast’ to light The chimney was crooked and there- 
fore perpetually half choked, and the fire, before it would light, expected to be 
dosed with a cupful of kerosene, like a drunkard’s morning nip of gin Having 
set the kettle to boil for her father’s shaving-water, Dorothy went upstairs and 
turned on her bath. Ellen was still snoring, with heavy youthful snores She 
was a good hard-working servant once she was awake, but she was one of 
those girls whom the Devil and all his angels cannot get out of bed before 



A Clergyman’ s Daughter 


256 

seven in the morning 
Dorothy filled the bath as slowly as possible-the splashing always woke her 
father if she turned on the tap too fast- and stood for a moment regarding the 
pale, unappetizing pool of water Her body had gone goose-flesh all over She 
detested cold baths, it was for that very reason that she made it a rule to take all 
her baths cold from April to November Putting a tentative hand into the 
water-and it was horribly cold- she drove herself forward with her usual 
exhortations Come on, Dorothy! i n you go' No funking, please' Then she 
stepped resolutely into the bath, sat down and let the icy girdle of water 
slide up her body and immerse her all except her hair, which she had twisted 
up behind her head The next moment she came to the surface gasping and 
wriggling, and had no sooner got her breath back than she remembered her 
‘memo list 5 , which she had brought down in her dressing-gown pocket and 
intended to read She reached out for it, and, leaning over the side of the bath, 
waist deep m icy water, read through the ‘memo list 5 by the light of the candle 
on the chair 
It ran 

70c HC 

Mrs T baby? Must visit 

Breakfast Bacon Must ask father money (P) 

Ask Ellen what stuff kitchen father’s tonic nb to ask about stuff for curtains 
at Solepipe’s 

Visiting call on Mrs P cutting from Daily M angelica tea good for 
rheumatism Mrs L’s cornplaster 

12 oc Rehearsal Charles I nb to order £lb glue 1 pot aluminium paint 
Dinner (crossed out) Luncheon ? 

Take round Parish Mag nb Mrs F owes 3/6d 
4 30 pm Mothers 5 TJ tea don’t forget 2\ yards casement cloth 
Flowers for church nb i tm Brasso 
Supper Scrambled eggs 

Type Father’s sermon what about new ribbon typewriter? 
nb to fork between peas bindweed awful 

Dorothy got out of her bath, and as she dried herself with a towel hardly 
bigger than a table napkm-they could never afford decent-sized towels at the 
Rectory-her hair came unpinned and fell down over her collar-bones in two 
heavy strands It was thick, fine, exceedingly pale hair, and it was perhaps as 
well that her father had forbidden her to bob it, for it was her only positive 
beauty. For the rest, she was a girl of middle height, rather thin, but strong and 
shapely, and her face was her weak point It was a thin, blonde, unremarkable 
kind of face, with pale eyes and a nose just a shade too long, if you looked 
closely you could see crow’s feet round the eyes, and the mouth, when it was in 
repose, looked tired. Not definitely a spmstensh face as yet, but it certainly 
would be so in a few years’ time Nevertheless, strangers commonly took her to 
be several years younger than her real age (she was not quite twenty-eight) 



A Clergymans Daughter 257 

because of the expression of almost childish earnestness in her eyes Her left 
forearm was spotted with tiny red marks like insect bites 

Dorothy put on her nightdress again and cleaned her teeth-plam water, of 
course, better not to use toothpaste before H C After all, either you are fasting 
or you aren’t The R C s are quite right there-and, even as she did so, 
suddenly faltered and stopped She put her toothbrush down A deadly pang, 
an actual physical pang, had gone through her viscera 

She had remembered, with the ugly shock with which one remembers 
something disagreeable for the first time m the morning, the bill at Cargill’s, 
the butcher’s, which had been owing for seven months That dreadful bill— it 
might be nineteen pounds or even twenty, and there was hardly the remotest 
hope of paying it- was one of the chief torments of her life At all hours of the 
night or day it was waiting just round the corner of her consciousness, ready to 
spring upon her and agonize her, and with it came the memory of a score of 
lesser bills, mounting up to a figure of which she dared not even think Almost 
involuntarily she began to pray, ‘Please God, let not Cargill send in his bill 
again today 1 ’ but the next moment she decided that this prayer was worldly 
and blasphemous, and she asked forgiveness for it Then she put on her 
dressing-gown and ran down to the kitchen in hopes of putting the bill out of 
mind 

The fire had gone out, as usual Dorothy relaid it, dirtying her hands with 
coal-dust, dosed it afresh with kerosene and hung about anxiously until the 
kettle boiled Father expected his shaving-water to be ready at a quarter past 
six Just seven minutes late, Dorothy took the can upstairs and knocked at her 
father’s door 

‘Come m, come in 1 ’ said a muffled, irritable voice 

The room, heavily curtained, was stuffy, with a masculine smell The Rector 
had lighted the candle on his bed-table, and was lying on his side, looking at his 
gold watch, which he had just drawn from beneath his pillow His hair was as 
white and thick as thistledown One dark bright eye glanced irritably over his 
shoulder at Dorothy 

‘Good morning, father ’ 

‘I do wish, Dorothy,’ said the Rector mdistinctly-his voice always sounded 
muffled and senile until he put his false teeth m-‘yau would make some effort 
to get Ellen out of bed m the mornings Or else be a little more punctual 
yourself ’ 

‘I’m so sorry. Father The kitchen fire kept going out ’ 

‘Very well 1 Put it down on the dressing-table Put it down and draw those 
curtains ’ 

It was daylight now, but a dull, clouded morning Dorothy hastened up to 
her room and dressed herself with the lightning speed which she found neces- 
sary six mornings out of seven There was only a tiny square of mirror m the 
room, and even that she did not use She simply hung her gold cross about her 
neck-plain gold cross, no crucifixes, please'-twisted her hair into a knot 
behind, stuck a number of hairpins rather sketchily into it, and threw her 
clothes (grey jersey, threadbare Irish tweed epat and skirt, stockings not quite 



2 $8 A Clergyman's Daughter 

matching the coat and skirt, and much- worn brown shoes) on to herself in the 
space of about three minutes She had got to e do out’ the dmmg-room and her 
father’s study before church, besides saying her prayers m preparation for 
Holy Communion, which took her not less than twenty minutes 

When she wheeled her bicycle out of the front gate the morning was still 
overcast, and the grass sodden with heavy dew Through the mist that 
wreathed the hillside St Athelstan’s Church loomed dimly, like a leaden 
sphinx, its single bell tolling funereally boom! boom' boom' Only one of the 
bells was now m active use, the other seven had been unswung from their cage 
and had lam silent these three years past, slowly splintering the floor of the 
belfry beneath their weight In the distance, from the mists below, you could 
hear the offensive clatter of the bell in the R C church -a nasty, cheap, tinny 
little thing which the Rector of St Athelstan’s used to compare with a muffin- 
bell 

Dorothy mounted her bicycle and rode swiftly up the hill, leaning over her 
handlebars The bridge of her thin nose was pink in the morning cold A 
redshank whistled overhead, invisible against the clouded sky Early in the 
morning my song shall rise to Thee' Dorothy propped her bicycle against the 
lychgate, and, finding her hands still grey with coal-dust, knelt down and 
scrubbed them clean m the long wet grass between the graves Then the bell 
stopped ringing, and she jumped up and hastened into church, just as 
Proggett, the sexton, in ragged cassock and vast labourer’s boots, was 
clumping up the aisle to take his place at the side altar 

The church was very cold, with a scent of candle-wax and ancient dust It 
was a large church, much too large for its congregation, and ruinous and more 
than half empty The three narrow islands of pews stretched barely half-way 
down the nave, and beyond them were great wastes of bare stone floor in which 
a few worn inscriptions marked the sites of ancient graves The roof over the 
chancel was sagging visibly, beside the Church Expenses box two fragments of 
riddled beam explained mutely that this was due to that mortal foe of 
Christendom, the death-watch beetle The light filtered, pale-coloured, 
through windows of anaemic glass Through the open south door you could 
see a ragged cypress and the boughs of a lime-tree, greyish m the sunless air 
and swaying faintly 

As usual, there was only one other communicant-old Miss Mayfill, of The 
Grange The attendance at Holy Communion was so bad that the Rector could 
not even get any boys to serve him, except on Sunday mornings, when the boys 
liked showmg off m front of the congregation m their cassocks and surplices 
Dorothy went into the pew behind Miss Mayfill, and, m penance for some sm 
of yesterday, pushed away the hassock and knelt on the bare stones The 
service was beginning The Rector, m cassock and short linen surplice, was 
reciting the prayers in a swift practised voice, clear enough now that his teeth 
were in, and curiously ungemal In his fastidious, aged face, pale as a silver 
com, there was an expression of aloofness, almost of contempt ‘This is a valid 
sacrament,’ he seemed to be saying, ‘and it is my duty to administer it to you 
But remember that I am only your priest, not your friend As a human being I 



A Clergyman's Daughter 259 

dislike you and despise you ’ Proggett, the sexton, a man of forty with curly 
grey hair and a red, harassed face, stood patiently by, uncomprehending but 
reverent, fiddling with the little communion bell which was lost m his huge red 
hands 

Dorothy pressed her fingers against her eyes She had not yet succeeded m 
concentrating her thoughts-mdeed, the memory of Cargill’s bill was still 
worrying her intermittently The prayers, which she knew by heart, were 
flowing through her head unheeded She raised her eyes for a moment, and 
they began immediately to stray First upwards, to the headless roof-angels on 
whose necks you could still see the sawcuts of the Puritan soldiers, then back 
again, to Miss Mayfill’s black, quasi-pork-pie hat and tremulous jet ear-rings 
Miss Mayfill wore a long musty black overcoat, with a little collar of greasy- 
lookmg astrakhan, which had been the same ever since Dorothy could 
remember It was of some very peculiar stuff, like watered silk but coarser, 
with rivulets of black piping wandering all over it in no discoverable pattern It 
might even have been that legendary and proverbial substance, black 
bombazine Miss Mayfill was very old, so old that no one remembered her as 
anything but an old woman A faint scent radiated from her-an ethereal scent, 
analysable as eau-de-Cologne, mothballs, and a sub-flavour of gin 

Dorothy drew a long glass-headed pm from the lapel of her coat, and 
furtively, under cover of Miss Mayfill’s back, pressed the point against her 
forearm Her flesh tingled apprehensively She made it a rule, whenever she 
caught herself not attending to her prayers, to prick her arm hard enough to 
make blood come It was her chosen form of self-discipline, her guard against 
irreverence and sacrilegious thoughts 

With the pm poised in readiness she managed for several moments to pray 
more collectedly Her father had turned one dark eye disapprovingly upon 
Miss Mayfill, who was crossing herself at intervals, a practice he disliked A 
starling chattered outside With a shock Dorothy discovered that she was 
looking vamgloriously at the pleats of her father’s surplice, which she herself 
had sewn two years ago She set her teeth and drove the pm an eighth of an 
inch into her arm 

They were kneeling again It was the General Confession Dorothy recalled 
her eyfes-- wandering, alasl yet again, this time to the stained-glass window on 
her right, designed by Sir Warde Tooke, ar a, in 1851 and representing St 
Athelstan’s welcome at the gate of Heaven by Gabriel and a legion of angels all 
remarkably like one another and the Prince Consort-and pressed the pinpoint 
against a different part of her arm She began to meditate conscientiously upon 
the meaning of each phrase of the prayer, and so brought her mind back to a 
more attentive state But even so she was all but obliged to use the pm again 
when Proggett tinkled the bell m the middle of ‘Therefore with Angels and 
Archangels’ -being visited, as always, by a dreadful temptation to begin 
laughing at that passage. It was because of a story her father had told her once, 
of how when he was a little boy, and serving the priest at the altar, the 
communion bell had a screw-on dapper, which had come loose; and so the 
priest had said ‘Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with aU the 



260 A Clergyman' s Daughter 

company of Heaven, we laud and magnify Thy glorious name, evermore 
praising Thee, and saying. Screw it up, you little fat-head, screw it up'* 

As the Rector finished the consecration Miss Mayfill began to struggle to her 
feet with extreme difficulty and slowness, like some disjointed wooden 
creature picking itself up by sections, and disengaging at each movement a 
powerful whiff of mothballs There was an extraordinary creaking sound- 
from her stays, presumably, but it was a noise as of bones grating against one 
another You could have imagined that there was only a dry skeleton inside 
that black overcoat 

Dorothy remained on her feet a moment longer Miss Mayfill was creeping 
towards the altar with slow, tottering steps She could barely walk, but she 
took bitter offence if you offered to help her In her ancient, bloodless face her 
mouth was surprisingly large, loose, and wet The underlip, pendulous with 
age, slobbered forward, exposing a strip of gum and a row of false teeth as 
yellow as the keys of an old piano On the upper lip was a fringe of dark, dewy 
moustache It was not an appetizing mouth, not the kind of mouth that you 
would like to see drinking out of your cup Suddenly, spontaneously, as 
though the Devil himself had put it there, the prayer slipped from Dorothy’s 
lips O God, let me not have to take the chalice after Miss Mayfill 1 

The next moment, in self-horror, she grasped the meaning of what she had 
said, and wished that she had bitten her tongue m two rather than utter that 
deadly blasphemy upon the altar steps She drew the pm again from her lapel 
and drove it into her arm so hard that it was all she could do to suppress a cry of 
pam Then she stepped to the altar and knelt down meekly on Miss Mayfill’ s 
left, so as to make quite sure of taking the chalice after her 

Kneeling, with head bent and hands clasped against her knees, she set 
herself swiftly to pray for forgiveness before her father should reach her with 
the wafer But the current of her thoughts had been broken Suddenly it was 
quite useless attempting to pray, her lips moved, but there was neither heart 
nor meaning in her prayers She could hear Proggett’s boots shuffling and her 
father’s clear low voice murmuring ‘Take and eat’, she could see the worn strip 
of red carpet beneath her knees, she could smell dust and eau-de-Cologne and 
mothballs, but of the Body and Blood of Christ, of the purpose for which she 
had come here, she was as though deprived of the power to think A deadly 
blankness had descended upon her mind It seemed to her that actually she 
could not pray She struggled, collected her thoughts, uttered mechanically the 
opening phrases of a prayer, but they were useless, meaningless-nothing but 
the dead shells of words Her father was holding the wafer before her in his 
shapely, aged hand He held it between finger and thumb, fastidiously, 
somehow distastefully, as though it had been a spoon of medicine His eye was 
upon Miss Mayfill, who was doubling herself up like a geometrid caterpillar, 
with many creakmgs and crossing herself so elaborately that one might have 
imagined that she was sketching a series of braid frogs on the front of her coat 
For several seconds Dorothy hesitated and did not take the wafer She dared 
not take it Better, far better to step down from the altar than to accept the 
sacrament with such chaos m her heart* 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 261 

Then it happened that she glanced sidelong, through the open south door A 
momentary spear of sunlight had pierced the clouds It struck downwards 
through the leaves of the limes, and a spray of leaves m the doorway gleamed 
with a transient, matchless green, greener than jade or emerald or Atlantic 
waters It was as though some jewel of unimaginable splendour had flashed for 
an instant, filling the doorway with green light, and then faded A flood of joy 
ran through Dorothy’s heart The flash of living colour had brought back to 
her, by a process deeper than reason, her peace of mmd, her love of God, her 
power to worship Somehow, because of the greenness of the leaves, it was 
again possible to pray O all ye green things upon the earth, praise ye the Lord' 
She began to pray, ardently, joyfully, thankfully The wafer melted upon her 
tongue She took the chalice from her father, and tasted with repulsion, even 
with an added joy in this small act of self-abasement, the wet imprint of Miss 
Mayfill’s lips on its silver rim 


2 


St Athelstan’s Church stood at the highest point of Knype Hill, and if you 
chose to climb the tower you could see ten miles or so across the surrounding 
country Not that there was anything worth looking at-only the low, barely 
undulating East Anglian landscape, intolerably dull in summer, but re- 
deemed m winter by the recurring patterns of the elms, naked and fanshaped 
against leaden skies 

Immediately below you lay the town, with the High Street running east and 
west and dividing unequally The southern section of the town was the 
ancient, agricultural, and respectable section On the northern side were the 
buildings of the Blifil-Gordon sugar-beet refinery, and all round and leading 
up to them were higgledy-piggledly rows of vile yellow brick cottages, mostly 
inhabited by the employees of the factory The factory employees, who made 
up more than half of the town’s two thousand inhabitants, were newcomers, 
townfolk, and godless almost to a man 

The two pivots, or foci, about which the social life of the town moved were 
Knype Hill Conservative Club (fully licensed), from whose bow window, any 
time after the bar was open, the large, rosy-gilled faces of the town’s 61ite were 
to be seen gazing like chubby goldfish from an aquarium pane, and Ye Olde 
Tea Shoppe, a little farther down the High Street, the principal rendezvous of 
the Knype Hill ladies Not to be present at Ye Olde Tea Shoppe between ten 
and eleven every morning, to drink your ‘morning coffee 5 and spend your half- 
hour or so in that agreeable twitter of upper-middle-class voices (‘My dear, he 
had nine spades to the ace-queen and he went one no trump, if you please 
What, my dear, you don’t mean to say you’re paying for my coffee agamt Oh, 



262 A Clergyman’ s Daughter 

but my dear, it is simply too sweet of you 1 Now tomorrow I shall simply insist 
upon paying for yours And just look at dear little Toto sitting up and looking 
such a clever little man with his little black nose wiggling, and he would, would 
he, the darling duck, he would, he would, and his mother would give him a 
lump of sugar, she would, she would There , Toto' 5 ), was to be definitely out of 
Knype Hill society The Rector in his acid way nicknamed these ladies ‘the 
coffee brigade* Close to the colony of sham-picturesque villas inhabited by 
the coffee brigade, but cut off from them by its larger grounds, was The 
Grange, Miss Mayfill’s house It was a curious, machicolated, imitation castle 
of dark red brick- somebody’s Folly, built about 1870-and fortunately almost 
hidden among dense shrubberies 

The Rectory stood half way up the hill, with its face to the church and its 
back to the High Street It was a house of the wrong age, inconveniently large, 
and faced with chronically peeling yellow plaster Some earlier Rector had 
added, at one side, a large greenhouse which Dorothy used as a workroom, but 
which was constantly out of repair The front garden was choked with ragged 
fir-trees and a great spreading ash which shadowed the front rooms and made 
it impossible to grow any flowers There was a large vegetable garden at the 
back Proggett did the heavy digging of the garden in the spring and autumn, 
and Dorothy did the sowing, planting, and weeding in such spare time as she 
could command, in spite of which the vegetable garden was usually an 
impenetrable jungle of weeds 

Dorothy jumped off her bicycle at the front gate, upon which some officious 
person had stuck a poster inscribed ‘Vote for Bhfil-Gordon and Higher 
Wages 1 ’ (There was a by-election going on, and Mr Blifil-Gordon was 
standing in the Conservative interest ) As Dorothy opened the front door she 
saw two letters lying on the worn coconut mat One was from the Rural Dean, 
and the other was a nasty, thm-looking letter from Catkin & Palm, her father’s 
clerical tailors It was a bill undoubtedly The Rector had followed his usual 
practice of collecting the letters that interested him and leaving the others 
Dorothy was just bending down to pick up the letters, when she saw, with a 
horrid shock of dismay, an unstamped envelope sticking to the letter-flap 

It was a bill-for certain it was a bill 1 Moreover, as soon as she set eyes on it 
she ‘knew’ that it was that horrible bill from Cargill’s, the butcher’s A sinking 
feeling passed through her entrails For a moment she actually began to pray 
that it might not be Cargill’s bill-that it might only be the bill for three and 
nine from Solepipe’s, the draper’s, or the bill from the International or the 
baker’s or the dairy-anythmg except Cargill’s bill 1 Then, mastering her pamc, 
she took the envelope from the letter-flap and tore it open with a convulsive 
movement 

‘To account rendered. £ 21 7s 9d ’ 

This was written m the innocuous handwriting of Mr Cargill’s accountant- 
But underneath, in thick, accusing-looking letters, was added and heavily 
underlined ‘Shd like to bring to your notice that this bill has been owing a 
very long time The earliest possible settlement will oblige, S Cargill ’ 

Dorothy had turned a shade paler, and was conscious of not wanting any 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 26 3 

breakfast She thrust the bill into her pocket and went into the dining-room It 
was a smallish, dark room, badly m need of repapering, and, like every other 
room m the Rectory, it had the air of having been furnished from the 
sweepings of an antique shop The furniture was ‘good 5 , but battered beyond 
repair, and the chairs were so worm-eaten that you could only sit on them in 
safety if you knew their individual foibles There were old, dark, defaced steel 
engravings hanging on the walls, one of them-an engraving of Van Dyck’s 
portrait of Charles I -probably of some value if it had not been ruined by 
damp 

The Rector was standing before the empty grate, warming himself at an 
imaginary fire and reading a letter that came from a long blue envelope He was 
still wearing his cassock of black watered silk, which set off to perfection his 
thick white hair and his pale, fine, none too amiable face As Dorothy came m 
he laid the letter aside, drew out his gold watch and scrutinized it significantly 
Tm afraid I’m a bit late, Father ’ 

‘Yes, Dorothy, you are a bit late,’ said the Rector, repeating her words with 
delicate but marked emphasis ‘You are twelve minutes late, to be exact Don’t 
you think, Dorothy, that when I have to get up at a quarter past six to celebrate 
Holy Communion, and come home exceedingly tired and hungry, it would be 
better if you could manage to come to breakfast without being a bit late ?’ 

It was clear that the Rector was m what Dorothy called, euphemistically, his 
‘uncomfortable mood’ He had one of those weary, cultivated voices which are 
never definitely angry and never anywhere near good humour-one of those 
voices which seem all the while to be saying, ‘I really cannot see what you are 
making all this fuss about 1 ’ The impression he gave was of suffering 
perpetually from other people’s stupidity and tiresomeness 

‘I’m so sorry, Father 1 I simply had to go and ask after Mrs Tawney ’ (Mrs 
Tawney was the ‘Mrs T’ of the ‘memo list’ ) ‘Her baby was born last night, and 
you know she promised me she’d come and be churched after it was born But 
of course she won’t if she thinks we aren’t taking any interest m her You know 
what these women are-they seem so to hate bemg churched They’ll never 
come unless I coax them into it ’ 

The Rector did not actually grunt, but he uttered a small dissatisfied sound 
as he moved towards the breakfast table, It was intended to mean, first, that it 
was Mr£ Tawney’s duty to come and be churched without Dorothy’s coaxing, 
secondly, that Dorothy had no business to waste her time visiting all the riff- 
raff of the town, especially before breakfast Mrs T awney was a labourer’s wife 
and lived in partibus mfidelium, north of the High Street The Rector laid his 
hand on the back of his chair, and, without speaking, cast Dorothy a glance 
which meant ‘Are we ready now ? Or are there to be any more delays?’ 

‘I think everything’s here, Father,’ said Dorothy ‘Perhaps if you’d just say 
grace-’ 

‘Benedictus benedicat/ said the Rector, lifting the worn silver coverlet oft the 
breakfast dish The silver coverlet, like the silver-gilt marmalade spoon, was a 
family heirloom, the knives and forks, and most of the crockery, came from 
Woolworths ‘Bacon again, I see,’ the Rector added, eyeing the three minute 



264 A Clergyman’s Daughter 

rashers that lay curled up on squares of fried bread 

‘It’s all we’ve got m the house, I’m afraid,’ Dorothy said 
The Rector picked up his fork between finger and thumb, and with a very 
delicate movement, as though playing at spillikins, turned one of the rashers 
over 

‘I know, of course, 5 he said, ‘that bacon for breakfast is an English 
institution almost as old as parliamentary government But still, don’t you 
think we might occasionally have a change, Dorothy?’ 

‘Bacon’s so cheap now,’ said Dorothy regretfully ‘It seems a sin not to buy 
it This was only fivepence a pound, and I saw some quite decent-looking 
bacon as low as threepence ’ 

‘Ah, Danish, I suppose? What a variety of Danish invasions we have had m 
this country! First with fire and sword, and now with their abominable cheap 
bacon Which has been responsible for the more deaths, I wonder?’ 

Feeling a little better after this witticism, the Rector settled himself m his 
chair and made a fairly good breakfast off the despised bacon, while Dorothy 
(she was not having any bacon this mornmg-a penance she had set herself 
yesterday for saying ‘Damn’ and idling for half an hour after lunch) meditated 
upon a good conversational opening 

There was an unspeakably hateful job in front of her-a demand for money 
At the very best of times getting money out of her father was next door to 
impossible, and it was obvious that this morning he was going to be even more 
‘difficult’ than usual ‘Difficult’ was another of her euphemisms He’s had bad 
news, I suppose, she thought despondently, looking at the blue envelope 
Probably no one who had ever spoken to the Rector for as long as ten 
minutes would have denied that he was a ‘difficult’ kind of man The secret of 
his almost unfailing ill humour really lay in the fact that he was an 
anachronism He ought never to have been born into the modern world, its 
whole atmosphere disgusted and infuriated him A couple of centuries earlier, 
a happy pluralist writing poems or collecting fossils while curates at £40 a year 
administered his parishes, he would have been perfectly at home Even now, if 
he had been a richer man, he might have consoled himself by shutting the 
twentieth century out of his consciousness But to live m past ages is very 
expensive, you can’t do it on less than two thousand a year The Rector, 
tethered by his poverty to the age of Lenin and the Daily Mail , was kept in a 
state of chrome exasperation which it was only natural that he should work off 
on the person nearest to him-usually, that is, on Dorothy 
He had been born m 1871, the younger son of the younger son of a baronet, 
and had gone into the Church for the outmoded reason that the Church is the 
traditional profession for younger sons His first cure had been in a large, 
slummy parish m East London-a nasty, hoohgamsh place it had been, and he 
looked back on it with loathing Even m those days the lower class (as he 
made a point of calling them) were getting decidedly out of hand It was a little 
better when he was curate-m-charge at some remote place m Kent (Dorothy 
had been born m Kent), where the decently down-trodden villagers still 
touched their hats to ‘parson’ But by that time he had married, and his 



A Clergyman’ s Daughter 265 

marriage had been diabolically unhappy, moreover, because clergymen must 
not quarrel with their wives, its unhappiness had been secret and therefore ten 
times worse He had come to Knype Hill m 1908, aged thirty-seven and with a 
temper incurably soured-a temper which had ended by alienating every man, 
woman, and child m the parish 

It was not that he was a bad priest, merely as a priest In his purely clerical 
duties he was scrupulously 'correct-perhaps a little too correct for a Low 
Church East Anglian parish He conducted his services with perfect taste, 
preached admirable sermons, and got up at uncomfortable hours of the 
morning to celebrate Holy Communion every Wednesday and Friday But 
that a clergyman has any duties outside the four walls of the church was a thing 
that had never seriously occurred to him Unable to afford a curate, he left the 
dirty work of the parish entirely to his wife, and after her death (she died in 
1921) to Dorothy People used to say, spitefully and untruly, that he would 
have let Dorothy preach his sermons for him if it had been possible The ‘lower 
classes’ had grasped from the first what was his attitude towards them, and if 
he had been a rich man they would probably have licked his boots, according to 
their custom, as it was, they merely hated him Not that he cared whether they 
hated him or not, for he was largely unaware of their existence But even with 
the upper classes he had got on no better With the County he had quarrelled 
one by one, and as for the petty gentry of the town, as the grandson of a baronet 
he despised them, and was at no pains to hide it In twenty-three years he had 
succeeded in reducmg the congregation of St Athelstan’s from six hundred to 
something under two hundred 

This was not solely due to personal reasons It was also because the old- 
fashioned High Anglicanism to which the Rector obstinately clung was of a 
kind to annoy all parties in the parish about equally Nowadays, a clergyman 
who wants to keep his congregation has only two courses open to him Either it 
must be Anglo-Catholicism pure and simple-or rather, pure and not simple, 
or he must be daringly modern and broad-minded and preach comforting 
sermons proving that there is no Hell and all good religions are the same The 
Rector did neither On the one hand, he had the deepest contempt for the 
Anglo-Catholic movement It had passed over his head, leaving him absolutely 
untouched, ‘Roman Fever’ was his name for it On the other hand, he was too 
‘High’ for the older members of his congregation From time to time he scared 
them almost out of their wits by the use of the fatal word ‘Catholic’, not only in 
its sanctified place in the Creeds, but also from the pulpit Naturally the 
congregation dwindled year by year, and it was the Best People who were the 
first to go Lord Pockthorne of Pockthome Court, who owned a fifth of the 
county, Mr Leavis, the retired leather merchant, Sir Edward Huson of 
Crabtree Hall, and such of the petty gentry as owned motor-cars, had all 
deserted St Athelstan’s Most of them drove over on Sunday mornings to 
Millborough, five miles away Millborough was a town of five thousand 
inhabitants, and you had your choice of two churches, St Edmund’s and St 
Wedekind’s. St Edmund’s was Modernist— text from Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ 
blazoned over the altar, and communion wme out of liqueur glasses-and St 



266 A Clergyman’s Daughter 

Wedekind’s was Anglo-Catholic and m a state of perpetual guerrilla warfare 
with the Bishop But Mr Cameron, the secretary of the Knype Hill 
Conservative Club, was a Roman Catholic convert, and his children were in 
the thick of the Roman Catholic literary movement They were said to have a 
parrot which they were teaching to say ‘Extra ecclesiam nulla sains' In effect, 
no one of any standing remained true to St Athelstan’s, except Miss Mayfill, of 
The Grange Most of Miss Mayfill’ s money was bequeathed to the Church-so 
she said, meanwhile, she had never been known to put more than sixpence m 
the collection bag, and she seemed likely to go on living for ever 

The first ten minutes of breakfast passed in complete silence Dorothy was 
trying to summon up courage to speak-obviously she had got to start some 
kind of conversation before raising the money-question-but her father was 
not an easy man with whom to make small talk At times he would fall into such 
deep fits of abstraction that you could hardly get him to listen to you, at other 
times he was all too attentive, listened carefully to what you said and then 
pointed out, rather wearily, that it was not worth saying Polite platitudes-the 
weather, and so forth-generally moved him to sarcasm Nevertheless, 
Dorothy decided to try the weather first 

c It’s a funny kind of day, isn’t it’’ she said-aware, even as she made it, of the 
inanity of this remark 

‘What is funny’’ inquired the Rector 

‘Well, I mean, it was so cold and misty this morning, and now the sun’s 
come out and it’s turned quite fine ’ 

‘Is there anything particularly funny about that’’ 

That was no good, obviously He must have had bad news, she thought She 
tried again 

‘I do wish you’d come out and have a look at the things in the back garden 
some time. Father The runner beans are doing so splendidly' The pods are 
going to be over a foot long I’m going to keep all the best of them for the 
Harvest Festival, of course I thought it would look so nice if we decorated the 
pulpit with festoons of runner beans and a few tomatoes hanging m among 
them ’ 

This was a faux pas The Rector looked up from his plate with an expression 
of profound distaste 

‘My dear Dorothy,’ he said sharply, ‘is it necessary to begin worrying me 
about the Harvest Festival already’’ 

‘I’m sorry, Father' 5 said Dorothy, disconcerted ‘I didn’t mean to worry 
you I just thought-’ 

‘Do you suppose’, proceeded the Rector, ‘it is any pleasure to me to have to 
preach my sermon among festoons of runner beans’ I am not a greengrocer It 
quite puts me off my breakfast to think of it When is the wretched thing due to 
happen’’ 

‘It’s September the sixteenth, Father ’ 

‘That’s nearly a month hence For Heaven’s sake let me forget it a little 
longer' I suppose we must have this ridiculous business once a year to tickle the 
vanity of every amateur gardener m the parish But don’t let’s think of it more 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 267 

than is absolutely necessary * 

The Rector had, as Dorothy ought to have remembered, a perfect 
abhorrence of Harvest Festivals He had even lost a valuable parishioner- a Mr 
Toagis, a surly retired market gardener-through his dislike, as he said, of 
seeing his church dressed up to imitate a coster’s stall Mr Toagis, amma 
naturaliter Nonconformistica , had been kept ‘Church’ solely by the privilege, at 
Harvest Festival time, of decorating the side altar with a sort of Stonehenge 
composed of gigantic vegetable marrows The previous summer he had 
succeeded in growing a perfect leviathan of a pumpkin, a fiery red thing so 
enormous that it took two men to lift it This monstrous object had been placed 
in the chancel, where it dwarfed the altar and took all the colour out of the east 
window In no matter what part of the church you were standing, the 
pumpkin, as the saying goes, hit you in the eye Mr Toagis was m raptures He 
hung about the church at all hours, unable to tear himself away from his 
adored pumpkin, and even bringing relays of friends in to admire it From the 
expression of his face you would have thought that he was quoting 
Wordsworth on Westminster Bridge 

Earth has not any thing to show more fair 
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by 
A sight so touching in its majesty 1 

Dorothy even had hopes, after this, of getting him to come to Holy 
Communion But when the Rector saw the pumpkin he was seriously angry, 
and ordered ‘that revolting thing’ to be removed at once Mr Toagis had 
instantly ‘gone chapel’, and he and his heirs were lost to the Church for ever 
Dorothy decided to make one final attempt at conversation 
‘We’re getting on with the costumes for Charles /,’ she said (The Church 
School children were rehearsing a play entitled Charles I in aid of the organ 
fund ) ‘But I do wish we’d chosen something a bit easier The armour is a 
dreadful job to make, and I’m afraid the jackboots are going to be worse I 
think next time we must really have a Roman or Greek play Something where 
they only have to wear togas ’ 

This elicited only another muted grunt from the Rector School plays, 
pageants, bazaars, jumble sales, and concerts in aid of were not quite so bad in 
his eyes as Harvest Festivals, but he did not pretend to be interested m them 
They were necessary evils, he used to say At this moment Ellen, the 
maidservant, pushed open the door and came gauchely into the room with one 
large, scaly hand holding her sacking apron against her belly She was a tall, 
round-shouldered girl with mouse-coloured hair, a plaintive voice, and a bad 
complexion, and she suffered chronically from eczema Her eyes flitted 
apprehensively towards the Rector, but she addressed herself to Dorothy, for 
she was too much afraid of the Rector to speak to him directly 
‘Please, Miss-’ she began, 

‘Yes, Ellen?’ 

‘Please, Miss,’ went on Ellen plaintively, ‘Mr Porter’s m the kitchen, and he 
says, please could the Rector come round and baptize Mrs Porter’s baby? 



268 A Clergyman's Daughter 

Because they don’t think as it’s going to live the day out, and it ain’t been 
baptized yet, Miss ’ 

Dorothy stood up ‘Sit down,’ said the Rector promptly, with his mouth 
full 

‘What do they think is the matter with the baby?’ said Dorothy 
‘Well, Miss, it’s turning quite black And it’s had diarrhoea something 
cruel ’ 

The Rector emptied his mouth with an effort ‘Must I have these disgusting 
details while I am eating my breakfast?’ he exclaimed He turned on Ellen 
‘Send Porter about his business and tell him I’ll be round at his house at twelve 
o’clock I really cannot think why it is that the lower classes always seem to 
choose mealtimes to come pestering one,’ he added, casting another irritated 
glance at Dorothy as she sat down 

Mr Porter was a labouring man-a bricklayer, to be exact The Rector’s 
views on baptism were entirely sound If it had been urgently necessary he 
would have walked twenty miles through snow to baptize a dying baby But he 
did not like to see Dorothy proposing to leave the breakfast table at the call of a 
common bricklayer 

There was no further conversation during breakfast Dorothy’s heart was 
sinking lower and lower The demand for money had got to be made, and yet it 
was perfectly obvious that it was foredoomed to failure His breakfast finished, 
the Rector got up from the table and began to fill his pipe from the tobacco-jar 
on the mantelpiece Dorothy uttered a short prayer for courage, and then 
pinched herself Go on, Dorothy' Out with it' No funking, please' With an 
effort she mastered her voice and said 
‘Father-’ 

‘What is it’’ said the Rector, pausing with the match m his hand 
‘Father, I’ve something I want to ask you Something important ’ 

The expression of the Rector’s face changed He had divined instantly what 
she was gomg to say, and, curiously enough, he now looked less irritable than 
before A stony calm had settled upon his face He looked like a rather 
exceptionally aloof and unhelpful sphinx 

‘Now, my dear Dorothy, I know very well what you are gomg to say I 
suppose you are gomg to ask me for money again Is that it?’ 

‘Yes, Father Because-’ 

‘Well, I may as well save you the trouble I have no money at all-absolutely 
no money at all until next quarter You have had your allowance, and I can’t 
give you a halfpenny more It’s quite useless to come worrying me now ’ 

‘But, Father-’ 

Dorothy’s heart sank yet lower. What was worst of all when she came to him 
for money was the terrible, unhelpful calmness of his attitude He was never so 
unmoved as when you were reminding him that he was up to his eyes in debt 
Apparently he could not understand that tradesmen occasionally want to be 
paid, and that no house can be kept going without an adequate supply of 
money He allowed Dorothy eighteen pounds a month for all the household 
expenses, including Ellen’s wages, and at the same time he was ‘dainty’ about 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 269 

his food and instantly detected any falling off in its quality The result was, of 
course, that the household was perennially m debt But the Rector paid not the 
smallest attention to his debts-indeed, he was hardly even aware of them 
When he lost money over an investment, he was deeply agitated, but as for a 
debt to a mere tradesman-well, it was the kind of thing that he simply could 
not bother his head about 

A peaceful plume of smoke floated upwards from the Rector’s pipe He was 
gazing with a meditative eye at the steel engraving of Charles I and had 
probably forgotten already about Dorothy’s demand for money Seeing him so 
unconcerned, a pang of desperation went through Dorothy, and her courage 
came back to her She said more sharply than before 
‘Father, please listen to me 1 I must have some money soon 1 I simply must ] 
We can’t go on as we’re doing We owe money to nearly every tradesman mthe 
town It’s got so that some mornings I can hardly bear to go down the street 
and think of all the bills that are owing Do you know that we owe Cargill 
nearly twenty-two pounds?’ 

‘What of it?’ said the Rector between puffs of smoke 
‘But the bill’s been mounting up for over seven months' He’s sent it m over 
and over again We must pay it' It’s so unfair to him to keep him waiting for his 
money like that'’ 

‘Nonsense, my dear child' These people expect to be kept waiting for their 
money They like it It brings them more in the end Goodness knows how 
much I owe to Catkin & Palm - 1 should hardly care to inquire They are 
dunning me by every post But you don’t hear me complaining, do you 7 *’ 

‘But, Father, I can’t look at it as you do, I can’t' It’s so dreadful to be always 
m debt' Even if it isn’t actually wrong, it’s so hateful It makes me so ashamed' 
When I go into Cargill’s shop to order the joint, he speaks to me so shortly and 
makes me wait after the other customers, all because our bill’s mounting up the 
whole time And yet I daren’t stop ordering from him I believe he’d run us in 
if I did ’ 

The Rector frowned ‘What' Do you mean to say the fellow has been 
impertinent to you?’ 

‘I didn’t say he’d been impertinent, Father But you can’t blame him if he’s 
angry when his bill’s not paid ’ 

‘I most certainly can blame him' It is simply abominable how these people 
take it upon themselves to behave nowadays-abominable' But there you are, 
you see That is the kind of thing that we are exposed to m this delightful 
century That is democracy -progress, as they are pleased to call it Don’t order 
from the fellow again Tell him at once that you are taking your account 
elsewhere That’s the only way to treat these people ’ 

‘But, Father, that doesn’t settle anything Really and truly, don’t you think 
we ought to pay him ? Surely we can get hold of the money somehow? Couldn’t 
you sell out some shares, or something?’ 

‘My dear child, don’t talk to me about selling out shares! I have just had the 
most disagreeable news from my broker He tells me that my Sumatra Tin 
shares have dropped from seven and fourpence to six and a penny It means a 



2jo A Clergyman's Daughter 

loss of nearly sixty pounds I am telling him to sell out at once before they drop 
any further ’ 

‘Then if you sell out you’ll have some ready money, won’t you? Don’t you 
think it would be better to get out of debt once and for alP’ 

‘Nonsense, nonsense,’ said the Rector more calmly, putting his pipe back m 
his mouth ‘You know nothing whatever about these matters I shall have to 
reinvest at once m something more hopeful-it’s the only way of getting my 
money back ’ 

With one thumb m the belt of his cassock he frowned abstractedly at the 
steel engraving His broker had advised United Celanese Here— m Sumatra 
Tin, United Celanese, and numberless other remote and dimly imagined 
companies- was the central cause of the Rector’s money troubles He was an 
inveterate gambler Not, of course, that he thought of it as gambling, it was 
merely a lifelong search for a ‘good investment’ On coming of age he had 
inherited four thousand pounds, which had gradually dwindled, thanks to his 
‘investments’, to about twelve hundred What was worse, every year he 
managed to scrape together, out of his miserable income, another fifty pounds 
which vanished by the same road It is a curious fact that the lure of a ‘good 
investment’ seems to haunt clergymen more persistently than any other class 
of man Perhaps it is the modern equivalent of the demons in female shape who 
used to haunt the anchorites of the Dark Ages 

‘I shall buy five hundred United Celanese,’ said the Rector finally 

Dorothy began to give up hope Her father was now thinking of his 
‘investments’ (she new nothing whatever about these ‘investments’, except 
that they went wrong with phenomenal regularity), and in another moment the 
question of the shop-debts would have slipped entirely out of his mind She 
made a final effort 

‘Father, let’s get this settled, please Do you think you’ll be able to let me 
have some extra money fairly soon? Not this moment, perhaps-but m the next 
month or two?’ 

‘No, my dear, I don’t About Christmas time, possibly-it’s very unlikely 
even then. But for the present, certainly not I haven’t a halfpenny I can spare ’ 

‘But, Father, it’s so horrible to feel we can’t pay our debts* It disgraces us so* 
Last time Mr Welwyn-Foster was here’ (Mr Welwyn-Foster was the Rural 
Dean) ‘Mrs Welwyn-Foster was going all round the town asking everyone the 
most personal questions about us- asking how we spent our time, and how 
much money we had, and how many tons of coal we used in a year, and 
everything She’s always trying to pry into our affairs Suppose she found out 
that we were badly in debt 1 ’ 

‘Surely it is our own business? I fail entirely to see what it has to do with Mrs 
Welwyn-Foster or anyone else ’ 

‘But she’d repeat it all over the place-and she’d exaggerate it too* You know 
what Mrs Welwyn-Foster is. In every parish she goes to she tries to find out 
something disgraceful about the clergyman, and then she repeats every word 
of it to the Bishop I don’t want to be uncharitable about her, but really she-’ 

Realizing that she did want to be uncharitable, Dorothy was silent 



A Clergyman' s Daughter 271 

‘She is a detestable woman/ said the Rector evenly ‘What of 1 t? Who ever 
heard of a Rural Dean’s wife who wasn’t detestable?’ 

‘But, Father, I don’t seem to be able to get you to see how serious things are 1 
We’ve simply nothing to live on for the next month I don’t even know where 
the meat’s coming from for today’s dinner ’ 

‘Luncheon, Dorothy, luncheon 1 ’ said the Rector with a touch of irritation ‘I 
do wish you would drop that abominable lower-class habit of calling the 
midday meal dinner >’ 

‘For luncheon, then Where are we to get the meat from? I daren’t ask 
Cargill for another joint ’ 

‘Go to the other butcher-what’s his name? Salter-and take no notice of 
Cargill He knows he’ll be paid sooner or later Good gracious, I don’t know 
what all this fuss is about 1 Doesn’t everyone owe money to his tradesmen? I 
distinctly remember’ -the Rector straightened his shoulders a little, and, 
putting his pipe back into his mouth, looked into the distance, his voice 
became reminiscent and perceptibly more agreeable- ‘I distinctly remember 
that when I was up at Oxford, my father had still not paid some of his own 
Oxford bills of thirty years earlier Tom’ (Tom was the Rector’s cousin, the 
Baronet) ‘owed seven thousand before he came into his money He told me so 
himself ’ 

At that, Dorothy’s last hope vanished When her father began to talk about 
his cousin Tom, and about things that had happened ‘when I was up at 
Oxford’, there was nothing more to be done with him It meant that he had 
slipped into an imaginary golden past in which such vulgar things as butchers’ 
bills simply did not exist There were long periods together when he seemed 
actually to forget that he was only a poverty-stricken country Rector-that he 
was not a young man of family with estates and reversions at his back. The 
aristocratic, the expensive attitude was the one that m all circumstances came 
the most naturally to him And of course while he lived, not uncomfortably, in 
the world of his imagination, it was Dorothy who had to fight the tradesmen 
and make a leg of mutton last from Sunday to Wednesday But she knew the 
complete uselessness of arguing with him any longer It would only end m 
making him angry She got up from the table and began to pile the breakfast 
things on to the tray 

‘You’re absolutely certain you can’t let me have any money, Father?’ she 
said for the last time, at the door, with the tray m her arms 

The Rector, gazing into the middle distance, amid comfortable wreaths of 
smoke, did not hear her He was thinking, perhaps, of his golden Oxford days 
Dorothy went out of the room distressed almost to the point of tears The 
miserable question of the debts was once more shelved, as it had been shelved a 
thousand times before, with no prospect of final solution. 



3 


On her elderly bicycle with the basketwork carrier on the handle-bars, 
Dorothy free-wheeled down the hill, doing mental arithmetic with three 
pounds nineteen and fourpence-her entire stock of money until next quarter- 
day 

She had been through the list of things that were needed m the kitchen But 
indeed, was there anything that was not needed m the kitchen? Tea, coffee, 
soap, matches, candles, sugar, lentils, firewood, soda, lamp oil, boot polish, 
margarine, baking powder-there seemed to be practically nothing that they 
were not running short of And at every moment some fresh item that she had 
forgotten popped up and dismayed her The laundry bill, for example, and the 
fact that the coal was running short, and the question of the fish for Friday 
The Rector was ‘difficult’ about fish Roughly speaking, he would only eat the 
more expensive kinds, cod, whiting, sprats, skate, herrings, and kippers he 
refused 

Meanwhile, she had got to settle about the meat for today’s 
dmner-luncheon (Dorothy was careful to obey her father and call it luncheon , 
when she remembered it On the other hand, you could not m honesty call the 
evening meal anything but ‘supper’, so there was no such meal as ‘dinner’ at 
the Rectory ) Better make an omelette for luncheon today, Dorothy decided 
She dared not go to Cargill again Though, of course, if they had an omelette 
for luncheon and then scrambled eggs for supper, her father would probably 
be sarcastic about it Last time they had eggs twice m one day, he had inquired 
coldly, ‘Have you started a chicken farm, Dorothy?’And perhaps tomorrow 
she would get two pounds of sausages at the International, and that staved off 
the meat-question for one day more 

Thirty-nine further days, with only three pounds mneteen and fburpence to 
provide for them, loomed up in Dorothy’s imagination, sending through her a 
wave of self-pity which she checked almost instantly. Now then, Dorothy 1 No 
snivelling, please' It all comes right somehow if you trust in God Matthew vi, 
25 The Lord will provide Will He? Dorothy removed her right hand from 
the handle-bars and felt for the glass-headed pm, but the blasphemous 
thought faded. At this moment she became aware of the gloomy red face 
of Proggett, who was hailing her respectfully but urgently from the side of the 
road 

Dorothy stopped and got off her bicycle. 

‘Beg pardon, Miss,’ said Proggett ‘I been wanting to speak to you, 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 


273 


Miss-partic’lar ’ 

Dorothy sighed inwardly When Proggett wanted to speak to you partic’lar , 
you could be perfectly certain what was coming, it was some piece of alarming 
news about the condition of the church Proggett was a pessimistic, 
conscientious man, and very loyal churchman, after his fashion Too dim of 
intellect to have any definite religious beliefs, he showed his piety by an intense 
solicitude about the state of the church buildings He had decided long ago that 
the Church of Christ meant the actual walls, roof, and tower of St Athelstan’s, 
Knype Hill, and he would poke round the church at all hours of the day, 
gloomily noting a cracked stone here, a worm-eaten beam there-and 
afterwards, of course, coming to harass Dorothy with demands for repairs 
which would cost impossible sums of money 

‘What is it, Proggett ? 5 said Dorothy 

‘Well, Miss, it’s they- 5 -here a peculiar, imperfect sound, not a word 
exactly, but the ghost of a word, all but formed itself on Proggett’s lips It 
seemed to begin with a B Proggett was one of those men who are for ever on 
the verge of swearing, but who always recapture the oath as it is escaping 
between their teeth Tt 5 s they bells, Miss,’ he said, getting rid of the B sound 
with an effort ‘They bells up in the church tower They’re a-splmtermg 
through that there belfry floor in a way as it makes you fair shudder to look at 
’em We’ll have ’em down atop of us before we know where we are I was up 
the belfry ’smormng, and I tell you I come down faster’n I went up, when I 
saw how that there floor’s a-bustmg underneath ’em 

Proggett came to complain about the condition of the bells not less than once 
a fortnight It was now three years that they had been lying on the floor of the 
belfry, because the cost of either reswmgmg or removing them was estimated 
at twenty-five pounds, which might as well have been twenty-five thousand for 
all the chance there was of paying for it They were really almost as dangerous 
as Proggett made out It was quite certain that, if not this year or next year, at 
any rate at some time m the near future, they would fall through the belfry 
floor into the church porch And, as Proggett was fond of pointing out, it 
would probably happen on a Sunday morning just as the congregation were 
coming into church 

Dorothy sighed again Those wretched bells were never out of mind for 
long, there were times when the thought of their falling even got into her 
dreams There was always some trouble or other at the church Ifitwasnotthe 
belfry, then it was the roof or the walls, or it was a broken pew which the 
carpenter wanted ten shillings to mend, or it was seven hymn-books needed at 
one and sixpence each, or the flue of the stove choked up-and the sweep’s fee 
was half a crown-or a smashed window-pane or the choir-boys’ cassocks m 
rags There was never enough money for anything The new organ which the 
Rector had insisted on buying five years earlier- the old one, he said, reminded 
him of a cow with the asthma-was a burden under which the Church Expenses 
fund had been staggering ever since 

T don’t know what we can do,’ said Dorothy finally; ‘I really don’t. We’ve 
simply no money at all And even if we do make anything out of the school- 



2j4 A Clergyman' s Daughter 

children’s play, it’s all got to go to the organ fund The organ people are really 
getting quite nasty about their bill Have you spoken to my father^’ 

‘Yes, Miss He don’t make nothing of it “Belfry’s held up five hundred 
years,” he says, “we can trust it to hold up a few years longer ’” 

This was quite according to precedent The fact that the church was visibly 
collapsing over his head made no impression on the Rector, he simply ignored 
it, as he ignored anything else that he did not wish to be worried about 
‘Well, I don’t know what we can do,’ Dorothy repeated ‘Of course there’s 
the jumble sale coming off the week after next I’m counting on Miss Mayfill to 
give us something really nice for the jumble sale I know she could afford to 
She’s got such lots of furniture and things that she never uses I was in her 
house the other day, and I saw a most beautiful Lowestoft chma tea service 
which was put away in a cupboard, and she told me it hadn’t been used for over 
twenty years Just suppose she gave us that tea service 1 It would fetch pounds 
and pounds We must just pray that the jumble sale will be a success, Proggett 
Pray that it’ll bring us five pounds at least I’m sure we shall get the money 
somehow if we really and truly pray for it ’ 

‘Yes, Miss,’ said Proggett respectfully, and shifted his gaze to the far 
distance 

At this moment a horn hooted and a vast, gleaming blue car came very 
slowly down the road, making for the High Street Out of one window Mr 
Blifil-Gordon, the Proprietor of the sugar-beet refinery, was thrusting a sleek 
black head which went remarkably ill with his suit of sandy-coloured Harris 
tweed As he passed, instead of ignoring Dorothy as usual, he flashed upon her 
a smile so warm that it was almost amorous With him were his eldest son 
Ralph-or, as he and the rest of the family pronounced it, Walph-an epicene 
youth of twenty, given to the writing of sub-Eliot vers libre poems, and Lord 
Pockthorne’s two daughters They were all smiling, even Lord Pockthorne’s 
daughters Dorothy was astomshed, for it was several years since any of these 
people had deigned to recognize her in the street 

‘Mr Blifil-Gordon is very friendly this morning,’ she said 
‘Aye, Miss I’ll be bound he is It’s the election coming on next week, that’s 
what ’tis All honey and butter they are till they’ve made sure as you’ll vote for 
them, and then they’ve forgot your very face the day afterwards ’ 

‘Oh, the election'’ said Dorothy vaguely So remote were such things as 
parliamentary elections from the daily round of parish work that she was 
virtually unaware of them-hardly, indeed, even knowing the difference 
between Liberal and Conservative or Socialist and Communist ‘Well, 
Proggett,’ she said, immediately forgetting the election in favour of something 
more important, Til speak to Father and tell him how serious it is about the 
bells, I think perhaps the best thing we can do will be to get up a special 
subscription, just for the bells alone There’s no knowing, we might make five 
pounds We might even make ten pounds' Don’t you think if I went to Miss 
Mayfill and asked her to start the subscription with five pounds, she might give 
it to us?’ 

‘You take my word, Miss, and don’t you let Miss Mayfill hear nothing about 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 27 s 

it It’d scare the life out of her If she thought as that tower wasn’t safe, we’d 
never get her inside that church again ’ 

‘Oh dear 1 1 suppose not ’ 

‘No, Miss We shan’t get nothing out of her, the old-’ 

A ghostly B floated once more across Proggett’s lips His mind a little more 
at rest now that he had delivered his fortnightly report upon the bells, he 
touched his cap and departed, while Dorothy rode on into the High Street, 
with the twin problems of the shop-debts and the Church Expenses pursuing 
one another through her mind like the twin refrains of a villanelle 
The still watery sun, now playing hide-and-seek. April-wise, among woolly 
islets of cloud, sent an oblique beam down the High Street, gilding the house- 
fronts of the northern side It was one of those sleepy, old-fashioned streets 
that look so ideally peaceful on a casual visit and so very different when you live 
in them and have an enemy or a creditor behind every window The only 
definitely offensive buildings were Ye Olde Tea Shoppe (plaster front with 
sham beams nailed on to it, bottle-glass windows and revolting curly roof like 
that of a Chinese joss-house), and the new. Doric-pillared post office After 
about two hundred yards the High Street forked, forming a tiny market-place, 
adorned with a pump, now defunct, and a worm-eaten pair of stocks On either 
side of the pump stood the Dog and Bottle, the principal inn of the town, and 
the Knype Hill Conservative Club At the end, commanding the street, stood 
Cargill’s dreaded shop 

Dorothy came round the corner to a terrific dm of cheering, mingled with 
the strains of ‘Rule Britannia’ played on the trombone The normally sleepy 
street was black with people, and more people were hurrying from all the side- 
streets Evidently a sort of triumphal procession was taking place Right across 
the street, from the roof of the Dog and Bottle to the roof of the Conservative 
Club, hung a line with innumerable blue streamers, and m the middle a vast 
banner inscribed ‘Blifil-Gordon and the Empire 1 ’ Towards this, between the 
lanes of people, the Blifil-Gordon car was moving at a foot-pace, with Mr 
Blifil-Gordon smiling richly, first to one side, then to the other In front of the 
car marched a detachment of the Buffaloes, headed by an earnest-looking little 
man playing the trombone, and carrying among them another banner 
inscribed 


Who’ll save Britain from the Reds’ 

BLIFIL-GORDON 

Who’ll put the Beer back into your Pot’ 

BLIFIL-GORDON 

Blifil-Gordon for ever 1 

From the window of the Conservative Club floated an enormous Union 
Jack, above which six scarlet faces were beaming enthusiastically 
Dorothy wheeled her bicycle slowly down the street, too much agitated by 
the prospect of passing Cargill’s shop (she had got to pass it, to get to 
Solepipe’s) to take much notice of the procession The Blifil-Gordon car had 



2j6 A Clergyman 3 s Daughter 

halted for a moment outside Ye Olde Tea Shoppe Forward, the coffee 
brigade 1 Half the ladies of the town seemed to be hurrying forth, with lapdogs 
or shopping baskets on their arms, to cluster about the car like Bacchantes 
about the car of the vme-god After all, an election is practically the only time 
when you get a chance of exchanging smiles with the County There were 
eager feminine cries of ‘Good luck, Mr Blifil- Gordon' Dear Mr Blifil-Gordon' 
We do hope you’ll get in, Mr Blifil-Gordon 1 ’ Mr Blifil-Gordon’s largesse of 
smiles was unceasing, but carefully graded To the populace he gave a 
diffused, general smile, not resting on individuals, to the coffee ladies and the 
six scarlet patriots of the Conservative Club he gave one smile each, to the most 
favoured of all, young Walph gave an occasional wave of the hand and a 
squeaky ‘Cheewio 1 ’ 

Dorothy’s heart tightened She had seen that Mr Cargill, like the rest of the 
shopkeepers, was standing on his doorstep He was a tall, evil-looking man, in 
blue-striped apron, with a lean, scraped face as purple as one of his own joints 
of meat that had lain a little too long in the window So fascinated were 
Dorothy’s eyes by that ominous figure that she did not look where she was 
going, and bumped into a very large, stout man who was stepping off the 
pavement backwards 

The stout man turned round ‘Good Heavens 1 It’s Dorothy 1 ’ he exclaimed 

‘Why, Mr Warburton' How extraordinary' Do you know, I had a feeling I 
was going to meet you today ’ 

‘By the pricking of your thumbs, I presume ? 3 said Mr Warburton, beaming 
all over a large, pink, Micawberish face ‘And how are you? But by Jove 1 ’ he 
added, ‘What need is there to ask? You look more bewitching than ever ’ 

He pinched Dorothy’s bare elbow-she had changed, after breakfast, into a 
sleeveless gingham frock Dorothy stepped hurriedly backwards to get out of 
his reach-she hated being pinched or otherwise ‘mauled about’-and said 
rather severely 

‘ Please don’t pinch my elbow I don’t like it 3 

‘My dear Dorothy, who could resist an elbow like yours? It’s the sort of 
elbow one pinches automatically A reflex action, if you understand me ’ 

‘When did you get back to Knype Hill ? 3 said Dorothy, who had put her 
bicycle between Mr Warburton and herself ‘It’s over two months since I’ve 
seen you 3 

‘I got back the day before yesterday But this is only a flying visit I’m off 
again tomorrow I’m taking the kids to Brittany The bastards, you know 3 

Mr Warburton pronounced the word bastards, at which Dorothy looked 
away in discomfort, with a touch of naive pride He and his ‘bastards’ (he had 
three of them) were one of the chief scandals of Knype Hill He was a man of 
independent income, calling himself a painter-he produced about half a dozen 
mediocre landscapes every year-and he had come to Knype Hill two years 
earlier and bought one of the new villas behind the Rectory There he lived, or 
rather stayed periodically, m open concubinage with a woman whom he called 
his housekeeper Four months ago this woman-she was a foreigner, a 
Spaniard it was said-had created a fresh and worse scandal by abruptly 



A Clergyman 3 s Daughter 277 

deserting him, and his three children were now parked with some long- 
suffering relative m London In appearance he was a fine, imposing-looking 
man, though entirely bald (he was at great pains to conceal this), and he carried 
himself with such a rakish air as to give the impression that his fairly sizeable 
belly was merely a kind of annexe to his chest His age was forty-eight, and he 
owned to forty-four People in the town said that he was a ‘proper old rascal’, 
young girls were afraid of him, not without reason 
Mr Warburton had laid his hand pseudo-paternally on Dorothy’s shoulder 
and was shepherding her through the crowd, talking all the while almost 
without a pause The Blifil- Gordon car, having rounded the pump, was now 
wending its way back, still accompanied by its troupe of middle-aged 
Bacchantes Mr Warburton, his attention caught, paused to scrutinize it 
‘What is the meaning of these disgusting antics’’ he asked 
‘Oh, they’re- what is it they call lt’-electioneering Trying to get us to vote 
for them, I suppose ’ 

‘Trying to get us to vote for them' Good God 1 ’ murmured Mr Warburton, 
as he eyed the triumphal cortege He raised the large, silver-headed cane that 
he always carried, and pointed, rather expressively, first at one figure in the 
procession and then at another ‘Look at it 1 Just look at it 1 Look at those 
fawning hags, and that half-witted oaf grinning at us like a monkey that sees a 
bag of nuts Did you ever see such a disgusting spectacle’’ 

‘Do be careful 1 ’ Dorothy murmured ‘Somebody’s sure to hear you ’ 
‘Good 1 ’ said Mr Warburton, immediately raising his voice ‘And to think 
that low-born hound actually has the impertinence to think that he’s pleasing 
us with the sight of his false teeth 1 And that suit he’s wearing is an offence m 
itself Is there a Socialist candidate’ If so, I shall certainly vote for him ’ 
Several people on the pavement turned and stared Dorothy saw little Mr 
Twiss, the ironmonger, a weazened, leather-coloured old man, peering with 
veiled malevolence round the corner of the rush baskets that hung m his 
doorway He had caught the word Socialist, and was mentally registering Mr 
Warburton as a Socialist and Dorothy as the friend of Socialists 

‘I really must be getting on,’ said Dorothy hastily, feeling that she had better 
escape before Mr Warburton said something even more tactless ‘I’ve got ever 
such a lot of shopping to do I’ll say good-bye for the present, then ’ 

‘Oh, no, you won’t 1 ’ said Mr Warburton cheerfully ‘Not a bit of it* I’ll come 
with you ’ 

As she wheeled her bicycle down the street he marched at her side, still 
talking, with his large chest well forward and his stick tucked under his arm. 
He was a difficult man to shake off, and though Dorothy counted him as a 
friend, she did sometimes wish, he being the town scandal and she the Rector’s 
daughter, that he would not always choose the most public places to talk to her 
in At this moment, however, she was rather grateful for his company, which 
made it appreciably easier to pass Cargill’s shop-for Cargill was still on his 
doorstep and was regarding her with a sidelong, meaning gaze 

‘It was a bit of luck my meeting you this morning,’ Mr Warburton went on. 
‘In fact, I was looking for yoti , Who do you think I’ve got coming to dinner 



27 8 A Clergyman's Daughter 

with me tonight? Bewley- Ronald Bewley You’ve heard of him, of course?’ 
‘Ronald Bewley? No, I don’t think so Who is he?’ 

‘Why, dash it' Ronald Bewley, the novelist Author of Fishpools and 
Concubines Surely you’ve read Fishpools and Concubines ?’ 

‘No, I’m afraid I haven’t In fact, I’d never even heard of it ’ 

‘My dear Dorothy 1 You have been neglecting yourself You certainly ought 
to read Fishpools and Concubines It’s hot stuff, I assure you-real high-class 
pornography Just the kind of thing you need to take the taste of the Girl 
Guides out of your mouth ’ 

‘I do wish you wouldn’t say such things 1 ’ said Dorothy, looking away 
uncomfortably, and then immediately looking back again because she had all 
but caught Cargill’s eye ‘Where does this Mr Bewley live?’ she added ‘Not 
here, surely, does he?’ 

‘No He’s coming over from Ipswich for dinner, and perhaps to stay the 
night That’s why I was looking for you I thought you might like to meet him 
How about your coming to dinner tonight?’ 

‘I can’t possibly come to dinner,’ said Dorothy ‘I’ve got Father’s supper to 
see to, and thousands of other things I shan’t be free till eight o’clock or after ’ 
‘Well, come along after dinner, then I’d like you to know Bewley He’s an 
interesting fellow- very au fait with all the Bloomsbury scandal, and all that 
You’ll enjoy meeting him. It’ll do you good to escape from the church hen- 
coop for a few hours ’ 

Dorothy hesitated She was tempted To tell the truth, she enjoyed her 
occasional visits to Mr Warburton’s house extremely But of course they were 
very occasional-once m three or four months at the oftenest, it so obviously 
didn't do to associate too freely with such a man And even when she did go to 
his house she was careful to make sure beforehand that there was going to be at 
least one other visitor 

Two years earlier, when Mr Warburton had first come to Knype Hill (at that 
time he was posing as a widower with two children, a little later, however, the 
housekeeper suddenly gave birth to a third child in the middle of the night), 
Dorothy had met him at a tea-party and afterwards called on him Mr 
Warburton had given her a delightful tea, talked amusingly about books, and 
then, immediately after tea, sat down beside her on the sofa and begun making 
love to her, violently, outrageously, even brutally It was practically an assault 
Dorothy was horrified almost out of her wits, though not too horrified to resist 
She escaped from him and took refuge on the other side of the sofa, white, 
shaking, and almost m tears Mr Warburton, on the other hand, was quite 
unashamed and even seemed rather amused 
‘Oh, how could you, how could you?’ she sobbed 
‘But it appears that I couldn’t,’ said Mr Warburton 
‘Oh, but how could you be such a brute?’ 

‘Oh, that> Easily, my child, easily You will understand that when you get to 
my age,’ 

In spite of this bad beginning, a sort of friendship had grown up between the 
two, oven to the extent of Dorothy being ‘talked about’ in connexion with Mr 



A Clergyman 1 s Daughter 279 

Warburton It did not take much to get you ‘talked about’ m Knype Hill She 
only saw him at long intervals and took the greatest care never to be alone with 
him, but even so he found opportunities of making casual love to her But it 
was done m a gentlemanly fashion, the previous disagreeable incident was not 
repeated Afterwards, when he was forgiven, Mr Warburton had explained 
that he ‘always tried it on’ with every presentable woman he met 

‘Don’t you get rather a lot of snubs?’ Dorothy could not help asking him 
‘Oh, certainly But I get quite a number of successes as well, you know ’ 
People wondered sometimes how such a girl as Dorothy could consort, even 
occasionally, with such a man as Mr Warburton, but the hold that he had over 
her was the hold that the blasphemer and evil-liver always has over the pious 
It is a fact-you have only to look about you to verify it-that the pious and the 
immoral drift naturally together The best brothel-scenes in literature have 
been written, without exception, by pious believers or pious unbelievers And 
of course Dorothy, born into the twentieth century, made a point of listening 
to Mr Warburton’s blasphemies as calmly as possible, it is fatal to flatter the 
wicked by letting them see that you are shocked by them Besides, she was 
genuinely fond of him He teased her and distressed her, and yet she got from 
him, without being fully aware of it, a species of sympathy and understanding 
which she could not get elsewhere For all his vices he was distinctly likeable, 
and the shoddy brilliance of his conversation-Oscar Wilde seven times 
watered-which she was too inexperienced to see through, fascinated while it 
shocked her Perhaps, too, m this instance, the prospect of meeting the 
celebrated Mr Bewley had its effect upon her, though certamly Fishponds and 
Concubines sounded like the kind of book that she either didn’t read or else set 
herself heavy penances for reading In London, no doubt, one would hardly 
cross the road to see fifty novelists, but these things appeared differently in 
places like Knype Hill 

‘Are you sure Mr Bewley is coming?’ she said 

‘Quite sure And his wife’s coming as well, I believe Full chaperonage No 
Tarqum and Lucrece business this evening ? 

‘All right,’ said Dorothy finally, ‘thanks very much I’ll come round- 
about half past eight, I expect ’ 

‘Good If you can manage to come while it is still daylight, so much the 
better Remember that Mrs Sempnll is my next-door neighbour We can 
count on her to be on the qm vive any time after sundown ’ 

Mrs Semprill was the town scandalmonger-the most eminent, that is, of the 
town’s many scandalmongers Having got what he wanted (he was constantly 
pestering Dorothy to come to his house more often), Mr Warburton said au 
revoir and left Dorothy to do the remainder of her shopping 

In the semi-gloom of Solepipe’s shop, she was just moving away from the 
counter with her two and a half yards of casement cloth, when she was aware of 
a low, mournful voice at her ear It was Mrs Semprill She was a slender 
woman of forty, with a lank, sallow, distinguished face, which, with her glossy 
dark hair and air of settled melancholy, gave her something the appearance of a 
Van Dyck portrait Entrenched behind a pile of cretonnes near the window. 



280 A Clergyman's Daughter 

she had been watching Dorothy’s conversation with Mr Warburton 
Whenever you were doing something that you did not particularly want Mrs 
Semprill to see you doing, you could trust her to be somewhere in the 
neighbourhood She seemed to have the power of materializing like an Arabian 
jmneeyeh at any place where she was not wanted No indiscretion, however 
small, escaped her vigilance Mr Warburton used to say that she was like the 
four beasts of the Apocalypse- ‘They are full of eyes, you remember, and they 
rest not night nor day ’ 

‘Dorothy dearest ,’ murmured Mrs Semprill in the sorrowful, affectionate 
voice of someone breaking a piece of bad news as gently as possible ‘I’ve been 
so wanting to speak io you I’ve something simply dreadful to tell you-some- 
thing that will really horrify you 1 ’ 

‘What is it?’ said Dorothy resignedly, well knowing what was coming-for 
Mrs Semprill had only one subject of conversation 

They moved out of the shop and began to walk down the street, Dorothy 
wheeling her bicycle, Mrs Semprill mmcing at her side with a delicate birdlike 
step and bringing her mouth closer and closer to Dorothy’s ear as her remarks 
grew more and more intimate 

‘Do you happen to have noticed,’ she began, ‘that girl who sits at the end of 
the pew nearest the organ in church? A rather pretty girl, with red hair I’ve no 
idea what her name is,’ added Mrs Semprill, who knew the surname and all the 
Christian names of every man, woman, and child in Knype Hill 

‘Molly Freeman,’ said Dorothy ‘She’s the niece of Freeman the 
greengrocer ’ 

‘Oh, Molly Freeman? Is that her name? I’d often wondered Well-’ 

The delicate red mouth came closer, the mournful voice sank to a shocked 
whisper Mrs Semprill began to pour forth a stream of purulent libel involving 
Molly Freeman and six young men who worked at the sugar-beet refinery 
After a few moments the story became so outrageous that Dorothy, who had 
turned very pink, hurriedly withdrew her ear from Mrs SemprilFs whispering 
lips. She stopped her bicycle 

‘I won’t listen to such things!’ she said abruptly ‘I know that isn’t true about 
Molly Freeman It can't be true 1 She’s such a nice quiet girl-she was one of my 
very best Girl Guides, and she’s always been so good about helping with the 
church bazaars and everything I’m perfectly certain she wouldn’t do such 
things as you’re saying ’ 

‘But, Dorothy dearest' When, as I told you, I actually saw with my own 
eyes ’ 

‘I don’t care ! It’s not fair to say such things about people Even if they were 
true it wouldn’t be right to repeat them There’s quite enough evil in the world 
without going about looking for it ’ 

* Looking for it!’ sighed Mrs Semprill ‘But, my dear Dorothy, as though one 
ever wanted or needed to look 1 The trouble is that one can’t help seeing all the 
dreadful wickedness that goes on m this town ’ 

Mrs Semprill was always genuinely astonished if you accused her of looking 
for subjects for scandal Nothing, she would protest, pained her more than the 



A Clergyman's Daughter 281 

spectacle of human wickedness, but it was constantly forced upon her 
unwilling eyes, and only a stern sense of duty impelled her to make it public 
Dorothy’s remarks, so far from silencing her, merely set her talking about the 
general corruption of Knype Hill, of which Molly Freeman’s misbehaviour 
was only one example And so from Molly Freeman and her six young men she 
proceeded to Dr Gaythorne, the town medical officer, who had got two of the 
nurses at the Cottage Hospital with child, and then to Mrs Corn, the Town 
Clerk’s wife, found lymg m a field dead drunk on eau-de-Cologne, and then to 
the curate at St Wedekind’s m Millborough, who had involved himself m a 
grave scandal with a choirboy, and so it went on, one thing leading to another 
For there was hardly a soul m the town or the surrounding country about 
whom Mrs Sempnll could not disclose some festering secret if you listened to 
her long enough 

It was noticeable that her stories were not only dirty and libellous, but they 
had nearly always some monstrous tinge of perversion about them Compared 
with the ordinary scandalmongers of a country town, she was Freud to 
Boccaccio From hearing her talk you would have gathered the impression that 
Knype Hill with its thousand inhabitants held more of the refinements of evil 
than Sodom, Gomorrah, and Buenos Aires put together Indeed, when you 
reflected upon the lives led by the inhabitants of this latter-day City of the 
Plam-from the manager of the local bank squandering his clients’ money on 
the children of his second and bigamous marriage, to the barmaid of the Dog 
and Bottle serving drinks in the taproom dressed only in high-heeled satin 
slippers, and from old Miss Channon, the music-teacher, with her secret gm 
bottle and her anonymous letters, to Maggie White, the baker’s daughter, who 
had borne three children to her own brother-when you considered these 
people, all, young and old, rich and poor, sunken in monstrous and Babylonian 
vices, you wondered that fire did not come down from Heaven and consume 
the town forthwith But if you listened just a little longer, the catalogue of 
obscenities became first monstrous and then unbearably dull For in a town m 
which everyone is either a bigamist, a pederast, or a drug-taker, the worst 
scandal loses its sting In fact, Mrs Sempnll was something worse than a 
slanderer, she was a bore 

As to the extent to which her stories were believed, it varied At times the 
word would go round that she was a foul-mouthed old cat and everything she 
said was a pack of lies, at other times one of her accusations would take effect 
on some unfortunate person, who would need months or even years to live it 
down She had certainly been instrumental m breaking off not less than half a 
dozen engagements and starting innumerable quarrels between husbands and 
wives 

All this while Dorothy had been making abortive efforts to shake Mrs 
Semprill off. She had edged her way gradually across the street until she was 
wheeling her bicycle along the right-hand kerb> but Mrs Semprill had 
followed, whispering without cease It was not until they reached the end of 
the High Street that Dorothy summoned up enough firmness to escape She 
halted and put her right foot on the pedal of her bicycle 



282 A Clergyman’s Daughter 

‘I really can’t stop a moment longer , 9 she said ‘I’ve got a thousand things to 
do, and I’m late already ’ 

‘Oh, but, Dorothy dear 1 I’ve something else I simply must tell you- 
something most important 

‘I’m sorry-I’m in such a terrible hurry Another time, perhaps ’ 

‘It’s about that dreadful Mr Warburton,’ said Mrs Sempnll hastily, lest 
Dorothy should escape without hearing it ‘He’s just come back From London, 
and do you know— I most particularly wanted to tell you this-do you know, he 
actually-’ 

But here Dorothy saw that she must make off instantly, at no matter what 
cost She could imagine nothing more uncomfortable than to have to discuss 
Mr Warburton with Mrs Semprill She mounted her bicycle, and with only a 
very brief ‘Sorry - 1 really can’t stop 1 ’ began to ride hurriedly away 

‘I wanted to tell you-he’s taken up with a new woman 1 ’ Mrs Semprill cried 
after her, even forgetting to whisper in her eagerness to pass on this juicy titbit 
But Dorothy rode swiftly round the corner, not looking back, and 
pretending not to have heard An unwise thing to do, for it did not pay to cut 
Mrs Semprill too short Any unwillingness to listen to her scandals was taken 
as a sign of depravity, and led to fresh and worse scandals being published 
about yourself the moment you had left her 
As Dorothy rode homewards she had uncharitable thoughts about Mrs 
Semprill, for which she duly pinched herself Also, there was another, rather 
disturbing idea which had not occurred to her till this moment-that Mrs 
Semprill would certainly learn of her visit to Mr Warburton’s house this 
evening, and would probably have magnified it into something scandalous by 
tomorrow The thought sent a vague premonition of evil through Dorothy’s 
mind as she jumped off her bicycle at the Rectory gate, where Silly Jack, the 
town idiot, a third-grade moron with a triangular scarlet face like a strawberry, 
was loitering, vacantly flogging the gatepost with a hazel switch. 


4 


It was a little after eleven The day, which, like some overripe but hopeful 
widow playing at seventeen, had been putting on unseasonable April airs, had 
now remembered that it was August and settled down to be boiling hot 
Dorothy rode into the hamlet of Fennelwick, a mile out of Knype Hill She 
had delivered Mrs Lewm’s corn-plaster, and was dropping in to give old Mrs 
Ptther that cutting from the Daily Mail about angelica tea for rheumatism 
The sun, burning in the cloudless sky, scorched her back through her 
gingham frock, and the dusty road quivered m the heat, and the hot, flat 
meadows, over which even at this time of year numberless larks chirruped 



A Clergyman 1 s Daughter 283 

tiresomely, were so green that it hurt your eyes to look at them It was the kind 
of day that is called ‘glorious’ by people who don’t have to work 

Dorothy leaned her bicycle against the gate of the Pithers’cottage, and took 
her handkerchief out of her bag and wiped her hands, which were sweating 
from the handle-bars In the harsh sunlight her face looked pinched and 
colourless She looked her age, and something over, at that hour of the 
morning Throughout her day-and in general it was a seventeen-hour 
day- she had regular, alternating periods of tiredness and energy, the middle of 
the morning, when she was doing the first instalment of the day’s ‘visiting’, 
was one of the tired periods 

‘Visiting’, because of the distances she had to bicycle from house to house, 
took up nearly half of Dorothy’s day Every day of her life, except on Sundays, 
she made from half a dozen to a dozen visits at parishioners’ cottages She 
penetrated into cramped interiors and sat on lumpy, dust-diffusmg chairs 
gossiping with overworked, blowsy housewives, she spent hurried half-hours 
giving a hand with the mending and the ironing, and read chapters from the 
Gospels, and readjusted bandages on ‘bad legs’, and condoled with sufferers 
from mornmg-sickness, she played nde-a-cock-horse with sour-smellmg 
children who grimed the bosom of her dress with their sticky little fingers, she 
gave advice about ailing aspidistras, and suggested names for babies, and 
drank ‘nice cups of tea’ mnumerable-for the working women always wanted 
her to have a ‘nice cup of tea’, out of the teapot endlessly stewing 

Much of it was profoundly discouraging work Few, very few, of the women 
seemed to have even a conception of the Christian life that she was trying to 
help them to lead Some of them were shy and suspicious, stood on the 
defensive, and made excuses when urged to come to Holy Communion, some 
shammed piety for the sake of the tiny sums they could wheedle out of the 
church alms box, those who welcomed her coming were for the most part the 
talkative ones, who wanted an audience for complaints about the ‘goings on’ of 
their husbands, or for endless mortuary tales (‘And he had to have glass chubes 
let into his veins,’ etc , etc ) about the revolting diseases their relatives had died 
of Quite half the women on her list, Dorothy knew, were at heart atheistical in 
a vague unreasoning way She came up against it all day long-that vague, 
blank disbelief so common in illiterate people, against which all argument is 
powerless Do what she would, she could never raise the number of regular 
communicants to more than a dozen or thereabouts Women would promise to 
communicate, keep their promise for a month or two, and then fall away With 
the younger women it was especially hopeless They would not even join the 
local branches of the church leagues that were run for their benefit-Dorothy 
was honorary secretary of three such leagues, besides being captain of the Girl 
Guides, The Band of Hope and the Companionship of Marriage languished 
almost memberless, and the Mothers’ Union only kept going because gossip 
and unlimited strong tea made the weekly sewing-parties acceptable. Yes> it 
was discouraging work, so discouraging that at times it would have seemed 
altogether futile if she had not known the sense of futility for what it ls-the 
subtlest weapon of the Devil* 



284 A Clergyman’s Daughter 

Dorothy knocked at the Pither s’ badly fitting door, from beneath which a 
melancholy smell of boiled cabbage and dish-water was oozing From long 
experience she knew and could taste in advance the individual smell of every 
cottage on her rounds Some of their smells were peculiar in the extreme For 
instance, there was the salty, feral smell that haunted the cottage of old Mr 
Tombs, an aged retired bookseller who lay in bed all day m a darkened room, 
with his long, dusty nose and pebble spectacles protruding from what 
appeared to be a fur rug of vast size and richness 

But if you put your hand on the fur rug it disintegrated, burst and fled in all 
directions It was composed entirely of cats -twenty-four cats, to be exact Mr 
Tombs ‘found they kept him warm 5 , he used to explain In nearly all the 
cottages there was a basic smell of old overcoats and dish-water upon which 
the other, individual smells were superimposed, the cesspool smell, the 
cabbage smell, the smell of children, the strong, bacon-like reek of corduroys 
impregnated with the sweat of a decade 
Mrs Pither opened the door, which invariably stuck to the jamb, and then, 
when you wrenched it open, shook the whole cottage She was a large, 
stooping, grey woman with wispy grey hair, a sacking apron, and shuffling 
carpet slippers 

‘Why, if it isn’t Miss Dorothy' 5 she exclaimed in a dreary, lifeless but not 
unaffectionate voice 

She took Dorothy between her large, gnarled hands, whose knuckles were as 
shmy as skinned onions from age and ceaseless washing up, and gave her a wet 
kiss Then she drew her into the unclean interior of the cottage 

‘Pither’s away at work. Miss,’ she announced as they got inside ‘Up to Dr 
Gaythorne’s he is, a-diggmg over the doctor’s flower-beds for him ’ 

Mr Pither was a jobbing gardener He and his wife, both of them over 
seventy, were one of the few genuinely pious couples on Dorothy’s visiting 
list Mrs Pither led a dreary, wormlike life of shuffling to and fro, with a per- 
petual crick m her neck because the door lintels were too low for her, between 
the well, the sink, the fireplace, and the tiny plot of kitchen garden The 
kitchen was decently tidy, but oppressively hot, evil-smellmg and saturated 
with ancient dust At the end opposite the fireplace Mrs Pither had made a 
kind of prie-dieu out of a greasy rag mat laid m front of a tiny, defunct 
harmonium, on top of which were an oleographed crucifixion, ‘Watch and 
Pray’ done m beadwork, and a photograph of Mr and Mrs Pither on their 
wedding day in 1882 

‘Poor Pither 1 ’ went on Mrs Pither in her depressing voice, ‘him a-diggmg at 
his age, with his rheumatism that bad 1 Ain’t it cruel hard, Miss? And he’s had a 
kind of a pam between his legs, Miss, as he can’t seem to account for -terrible 
bad he’s been with it, these last few mornings Ain’t it bitter hard. Miss, the 
lives us poor working folks has to lead?’ 

‘It’s a shame,’ said Dorothy ‘But I hope you’ve been keeping a little better 
yourself, Mrs Pither?’ 

‘Ah, Miss, there’s nothmg don’t make me better I ain’t a case for curing, 
not m this world, I ain’t I shan’t never get no better, not m this wicked 



A Clergyman's Daughter 


285 


world down here ’ 

‘Oh, you mustn’t say that, Mrs Pither 1 1 hope we shall have you with us for a 
long time yet ’ 

‘Ah, Miss, you don’t know how poorly I’ve been this last week 1 I’ve had the 
rheumatism a-commg and a-going all down the backs of my poor old legs, till 
there’s some mornings when I don’t feel as I can’t walk so far as to pull a 
handful of onions m the garden Ah, Miss, it’s a weary world we lives in, ain’t 
it, Miss? A weary, sinful world ’ 

‘But of course we must never forget, Mrs Pither, that there’s a better world 
coming This life is only a time of trial-just to strengthen us and teach us to be 
patient, so that we’ll be ready for Heaven when the time comes ’ 

At this a sudden and remarkable change came over Mrs Pither It was 
produced by the word ‘Heaven’ Mrs Pither had only two subjects of 
conversation, one of them was the joys of Heaven, and the other the miseries of 
her present state Dorothy’s remark seemed to act upon her like a charm Her 
dull grey eye was not capable of brightening, but her voice quickened with an 
almost joyful enthusiasm 

‘Ah, Miss, there you said it 1 That’s a true word. Miss' That’s what Pither 
and me keeps a-saying to ourselves And that’s just the one thing as keeps us a- 
gomg-just the thought of Heaven and the long, long rest we’ll have there 
Whatever we’ve suffered, we gets it all back in Heaven, don’t we. Miss? Every 
little bit of suffering, you gets it back a hundredfold and a thousandfold That 
is true, ain’t it. Miss? There’s rest for us all m Heaven-rest and peace and no 
more rheumatism nor digging nor cooking nor laundering nor nothing You do 
believe that, don’t you. Miss Dorothy?’ 

‘Of course,’ said Dorothy 

‘Ah, Miss, if you knew how it comforts us-just the thoughts of Heaven' 
Pither he says to me, when he comes home tired of a night and our 
rheumatism’s bad, “Never you mind, my dear,” he says, “we ain’t far off 
Heaven now,” he says “Heaven was made for the likes of us,” he says, “just 
for poor working folks like us, that have been sober and godly and kept our 
Communions regular ” That’s the best way, ain’t it, Miss Dorothy-poor m 
this life and rich m the next? Not like some of them rich folks as all their motor- 
cars and their beautiful houses won’t save from the worm that dieth not and 
the fire that’s not quenched Such a beautiful text, that is Do you think you 
could say a little prayer with me, Miss Dorothy? I been looking forward all the 
morning to a little prayer ’ 

Mrs Pither was always ready for a ‘little prayer’ at any hour of the night or 
day. It was her equivalent to a ‘nice cup of tea’ They knelt down on the rag 
mat and said the Lord’s Prayer and the Collect for the week, and then 
Dorothy, at Mrs Pither’s request, read the parable of Dives and Lazarus, Mrs 
Pither coming m from time to time with ‘Amen' That’s a true word, ain’t it. 
Miss Dorothy? “And he was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom.” 
Beautiful' Dh, I do call that just too beautiful' Amen, Miss Dorothy- Amen!’ 

Dorothy gave Mrs Pither the cutting from the Daily Mail about angelica tea 
for rheumatism, and then, finding that Mrs Pither had been too ‘poorly’ to 



286 A Clergyman’ s Daughter 

draw the day’s supply of water, she drew three bucketfuls for her from the 
well It was a very deep well, with such a low parapet that Mrs Pither’s final 
doom would almost certainly be to fall into it and get drowned, and it had not 
even a winch- you had to haul the bucket up hand over hand And then they 
sat down for a few minutes, and Mrs Pither talked some more about Heaven It 
was extraordinary how constantly Heaven reigned m her thoughts, and more 
extraordinary yet was the actuality, the vividness with which she could see it 
The golden streets and the gates of orient pearl were as real to her as though 
they had been actually before her eyes And her vision extended to the most 
concrete, the most earthly details The softness of the beds up there! The 
deliciousness of the food' The lovely silk clothes that you would put on clean 
every morning! The surcease from everlasting to everlasting from work of any 
description' In almost every moment of her life the vision of Heaven supported 
and consoled her, and her abject complaints about the lives of ‘poor working 
folks’ were curiously tempered by a satisfaction m the thought that, after all, it 
is ‘poor working folks’ who are the principal inhabitants of Heaven It was a 
sort of bargain that she had struck, setting her lifetime of dreary labour against 
an eternity of bliss Her faith was almost too great, if that is possible For it was 
a curious fact, but the certitude with which Mrs Pither looked forward to 
Heaven-as to some kind of glorified home for mcurables-affected Dorothy 
with strange uneasiness 

Dorothy prepared to depart, while Mrs Pither thanked her, rather too 
effusively, for her visit, winding up, as usual, with fresh complaints about her 
rheumatism 

‘I’ll be sure and take the angelica tea,’ she concluded, ‘and thank you kindly 
for telling me of it. Miss Not as I don’t expect as it’ll do me much good Ah, 
Miss, if you knew how cruel bad my rheumatism’s been this last week' All 
down the backs of my legs, it is, like a regular shooting red-hot poker, and I 
don’t seem to be able to get at them to rub them properly Would it be asking 
too much of you. Miss, to give me a bit of a rub-down before you go? I got a 
bottle of Elliman’s under the sink ’ 

Unseen by Mrs Pither, Dorothy gave herself a severe pinch She had been 
expecting this, and-she had done it so many times before-she really did not 
enjoy rubbing Mrs Pither down She exhorted herself angrily Come on, 
Dorothy' No smffishness, please' John xrn, 14 ‘Of course I will, Mrs Pither 1 ’ 
she said instantly 

They went up the narrow, rickety staircase, in which you had to bend almost 
double at one place to avoid the overhanging ceiling The bedroom was lighted 
by a tiny square of window that was jammed in its socket by the creeper 
outside, and had not been opened in twenty years There was an enormous 
double bed that almost filled the room, with sheets perennially damp and a 
flock mattress as full of hills and valleys as a contour map of Switzerland With 
many groans the old woman crept on to the bed and laid herself face down 
The room reeked of urine and paregoric Dorothy took the bottle of Elliman’s 
embrocation and carefully anointed Mrs Pither’s large, grey-vemed, flaccid 
legs. 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 287 

Outside, m the swimming heat, she mounted her bicycle and began to ride 
swiftly homewards The sun burned m her face, but the air now seemed sweet 
and fresh She was happy, happy 1 She was always extravagantly happy when 
her morning’s ‘visiting’ was over, and, curiously enough, she was not aware of 
the reason for this In Borlase the dairy-farmer’s meadow the red cows were 
grazing, knee-deep in shining seas of grass The scent of cows, like a 
distillation of vanilla and fresh hay, floated into Dorothy’s nostrils Though 
she had still a morning’s work m front of her she could not resist the 
temptation to loiter for a moment, steadying her bicycle with one hand against 
the gate of Borlase’s meadow, while a cow, with moist shell-pink nose, 
scratched its chin upon the gatepost and dreamily regarded her 

Dorothy caught sight of a wild rose, flowerless of course, growing beyond 
the hedge, and climbed over the gate with the intention of discovering whether 
it were not sweetbriar She knelt down among the tall weeds beneath the 
hedge It was very hot down there, close to the ground The humming of many 
unseen insects sounded m her ears, and the hot summery fume from the 
tangled swathes of vegetation flowed up and enveloped her Near by, tall stalks 
of fennel were growing, with trailing fronds of foliage like the tails of sea-green 
horses Dorothy pulled a frond of the fennel against her face and breathed m 
the strong sweet scent Its richness overwhelmed her, almost dizzied her for a 
moment She drank it in, filling her lungs with it Lovely, lovely scent-scent of 
summer days, scent of childhood joys, scent of spice-drenched islands m the 
warm foam of Oriental seas' 

Her heart swelled with sudden joy It was that mystical joy m the beauty of 
the earth and the very nature of things that she recognized, perhaps 
mistakenly, as the love of God As she knelt there in the heat, the sweet odour 
and the drowsy hum of insects, it seemed to her that she could momentarily 
hear the mighty anthem of praise that the earth and all created things send up 
everlastingly to their maker All vegetation, leaves, flowers, grass, shining, 
vibrating, crying out in their joy Larks also chanting, choirs of larks invisible, 
dripping music from the sky All the riches of summer, the warmth of the 
earth, the song of birds, the fume of cows, the droning of countless bees, 
mingling and ascending like the smoke of ever-burning altars Therefore with 
Angels and Archangels' She began to pray, and for a moment she prayed 
ardently, blissfully, forgetting herself m the joy of her worship Then, less 
than a minute later, she discovered that she was kissing the frond of the fennel 
that was still against her face 

She checked herself instantly, and drew back What was she doing 5 Was it 
God that she was worshipping, or was it only the earth 5 The joy ebbed out of 
her heart, to be succeeded by the cold, uncomfortable feeling that she had been 
betrayed into a half-pagan ecstasy. She admonished herself None of that , 
Dorothy! No Nature-worship, please 1 Her father had warned her against 
Nature-worship She had heard him preach more than one sermon against it; it 
was, he said, mere pantheism, and, what seemed to offend him even more, a 
disgusting modem fad Dorothy took a thorn of the wild rose, and pricked her 
arm three times, to remind herself of the Three Persons of the Trinity, before 



288 A Clergyman's Daughter 

climbing over the gate and remounting her bicycle 

A black, very dusty shovel hat was approaching round the corner of the 
hedge It was Father McGuire, the Roman Catholic priest, also bicycling his 
rounds He was a very large, rotund man, so large that he dwarfed the bicycle 
beneath him and seemed to be balanced on top of it like a golf-ball on a tee His 
face was rosy, humorous, and a little sly 

Dorothy looked suddenly unhappy She turned pink, and her hand moved 
instinctively to the neighbourhood of the gold cross beneath her dress Father 
McGuire was riding towards her with an untroubled, faintly amused air She 
made an endeavour to smile, and murmured unhappily, ‘Good morning 1 But 
he rode on without a sign, his eyes swept easily over her face and then beyond 
her into vacancy, with an admirable pretence of not having noticed her 
existence It was the Cut Direct Dorothy-by nature, alas' unequal to 
delivering the Cut Direct- got on to her bicycle and rode away, struggling with 
the uncharitable thoughts which a meeting with Father McGuire never failed 
to arouse m her 

Five or six years earlier, when Father McGuire was holding a funeral in St 
Athelstan’s churchyard (there was no Roman Catholic cemetery at Knype 
Hill), there had been some dispute with the Rector about the propriety of 
Father McGuire robing in the church, or not robing in the church, and the two 
priests had wrangled disgracefully over the open grave Since then they had 
not been on speaking terms It was better so, the Rector said 

As to the other ministers of religion m Knype Hill-Mr Ward the 
Congregationalist minister, Mr Foley the Wesleyan pastor, and the braying 
bald-headed elder who conducted the orgies at Ebenezer Chapel-the Rector 
called them a pack of vulgar Dissenters and had forbidden Dorothy on pain of 
his displeasure to have anything to do with them 


5 


It was twelve o’clock In the large, dilapidated conservatory, whose roof- 
panes, from the action of time and dirt, were dim, green, and iridescent like old 
Roman glass, they were having a hurried and noisy rehearsal of Charles I 
Dorothy was not actually taking part in the rehearsal, but was busy making 
costumes She made the costumes, or most of them, for all the plays the 
schoolchildren acted- The production and stage management were m the 
hands of Victor Stone-Victor, Dorothy called him-the Church school- 
master He was a small-boned, excitable, black-haired youth of twenty-seven, 
dressed in dark sub-clerical clothes, and at this moment he was gesturing 
fiercely with a roll of manuscript at six dense-lookmg children On a long 
bench against the wall four more children were alternately practising ‘noises 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 289 

off’ by clashing fire-irons together, and squabbling over a grimy little bag of 
Spearmint Bouncers, forty a penny 

It was horribly hot in the conservatory, and there was a powerful smell of 
glue and the sour sweat of children Dorothy was kneeling on the floor, with 
her mouth full of pms and a pair of shears in her hand, rapidly slicing sheets of 
brown paper into long narrow strips The glue-pot was bubbling on an oil- 
stove beside her, behind her, on the rickety, ink-stained work-table, were a 
tangle of half-finished costumes, more sheets of brown paper, her sewing- 
machine, bundles of tow, shards of dry glue, wooden swords, and open pots of 
paint With half her mmd Dorothy was meditating upon the two pairs of 
seventeenth-century jackboots that had got to be made for Charles I and 
Oliver Cromwell, and with the other half listening to the angry shouts of 
Victor, who was working himself up into a rage, as he invariably did at 
rehearsals He was a natural actor, and withal thoroughly bored by the 
drudgery of rehearsing half-witted children He strode up and down, 
haranguing the children m a vehement slangy style, and every now and then 
breaking off to lunge at one or other of them with a wooden sword that he had 
grabbed from the table 

Tut a bit of life into it, can’t you 5 ’ he cried, plodding an ox-faced boy of 
eleven in the belly ‘Don’t drone 1 Say it as if it meant something' You look like 
a corpse that’s been buried and dug up again What’s the good of gurgling it 
down m your inside like that 5 Stand up and shout at him Take off that second 
murderer expression' 5 

‘Come here, Percy' 5 cried Dorothy through her pins ‘Quick 1 ’ 

She was making the armour-the worst job of the lot, except those wretched 
jackboots-out of glue and brown paper From long practice Dorothy could 
make very nearly anything out of glue and brown paper, she could even make a 
passably good periwig, with a brown paper skull-cap and dyed tow for the hair 
Taking the year through, the amount of time she spent m struggling with glue, 
brown paper, butter muslin, and all the other paraphernalia of amateur 
theatricals was enormous So chronic was the need of money for all the church 
funds that hardly a month ever passed when there was not a school play or a 
pageant or an exhibition of tableaux vivants on hand-not to mention the 
bazaars and jumble sales 

As Percy-Percy Jowett, the blacksmith’s son, a small curly-headed boy-got 
down from the bench and stood wriggling unhappily before her, Dorothy 
seized a sheet of brown paper, measured it against him, snipped out the 
neckhole and armholes, draped it round his middle and rapidly pinned it into 
the shape of a rough breastplate There was a confused dm of voices. 

victor Come on, now, come on! Enter Oliver Cromwell-that’s you! No, not 
like that' Do you think Oliver Cromwell would come slinking on like a dog 
that’s just had a hiding? Stand up. Stick your chest out. Scowl. That’s 
better Now go on, Cromwell : ‘Halt! I hold a pistol m my hand!’ Go on 
a girl’ Please, Miss, Mother said as I was to tell you, Miss- 
dorothy Keep still, Percy' For goodness’ sake keep still' 



290 A Clergyman's Daughter 

cromwell ’Alt' I ’old a pistol in my ’and 1 

a small girl on the bench Mister' I’ve dropped my sweetie' [Snivelling] I’ve 
dropped by swee-e-e-etie' 
victor No, no, no, Tommie' No, no, no' 

the girl Please, Miss, Mother said as I was to tell you as she couldn’t make 
my knickers like she promised, Miss, because- 
dorothy You’ll make me swallow a pin if you do that again 
cromwell i/alt' I hold a pistol - 
the small girl [in tears] My swee-e-e-e-eetie' 

Dorothy seized the glue-brush, and with feverish speed pasted strips of 
brown paper all over Percy’s thorax, up and down, backwards and forwards, 
one on top of another, pausing only when the paper stuck to her fingers In five 
minutes she had made a cuirass of glue and brown paper stout enough, when it 
was dry, to have defied a real sword-blade Percy, ‘locked up in complete steel’ 
and with the sharp paper edge cutting his chin, looked down at himself with 
the miserable resigned expression of a dog having its bath Dorothy took the 
shears, slit the breastplate up one side, set it on end to dry and started 
immediately on another child A fearful clatter broke out as the ‘noises off 
began practising the sound of pistol-shots and horses galloping Dorothy’s 
fingers were getting stickier and stickier, but from time to time she washed 
some of the glue off them in a bucket of hot water that was kept- in readiness In 
twenty minutes she had partially completed three breastplates Later on they 
would have to be finished off, painted over with aluminium paint and laced up 
the sides, and after that there was the job of making the thigh-pieces, and, 
worst of all, the helmets to go with them Victor, gesticulating with his sword 
and shouting to overcome the dm of galloping horses, was personating m turn 
Oliver Cromwell, Charles I, Roundheads, Cavaliers, peasants, and Court 
ladies The children were now growing restive and beginning to yawn, whine, 
and exchange furtive kicks and pinches The breastplates finished for the 
moment, Dorothy swept some of the litter off the table, pulled her sewing- 
machine into position and set to work on a Cavalier’s green velvet doublet-it 
was butter muslin Twmked green, but it looked all right at a distance 
There was another ten minutes of feverish work Dorothy broke her thread, 
all but said ‘Damn 1 ’ checked herself and hurriedly re-threaded the needle She 
was working against time The play was now a fortnight distant, and there was 
such a multitude of things yet to be made-helmets, doublets, swords, 
jackboots (those miserable jackboots had been haunting her like a nightmare 
for days past), scabbards, ruffles, wigs, spurs, scenery-that her heart sank 
when she thought of them The children’s parents never helped with the 
costumes for the school plays, more exactly, they always promised to help and 
then backed out afterwards, Dorothy’s head was aching diabolically, partly 
from the heat of the conservatory, partly from the strain of simultaneously 
sewing and trying to visualize patterns for brown paper jackboots For the 
moment she had even forgotten the bill for twenty-one pounds seven and 
nmepence at Cargill’s She could think of nothing save that fearful mountain 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 291 

of unmade clothes that lay ahead of her It was so throughout the day One 
thing loomed up after another- whether it was the costumes for the school play 
or the collapsing floor of the belfry, or the shop -debts or the bindweed in the 
peas-and each in its turn so urgent and so harassing that it blotted all the 
others out of existence 

Victor threw down his wooden sword, took out his watch and looked at it 
‘That’ll do 1 ’ he said m the abrupt, ruthless tone from which he never 
departed when he was dealing with children ‘We’ll go on on Friday Clear out, 
the lot of you 1 I’m sick of the sight of you ’ 

He watched the children out, and then, having forgotten their existence as 
soon as they were out of his sight, produced a page of music from his pocket 
and began to fidget up and down, cocking his eye at two forlorn plants m the 
corner which trailed their dead brown tendrils over the edges of their pots 
Dorothy was still bending over her machine, stitching up the seams of the 
green velvet doublet 

Victor was a restless, intelligent little creature, and only happy when he was 
quarrelling with somebody or something His pale, fine-featured face wore an 
expression that appeared to be discontent and was really boyish eagerness 
People meeting him for the first time usually said that he was wasting his 
talents in his obscure job as a village schoolmaster, but the truth was that 
Victor had no very marketable talents except a slight gift for music and a much 
more pronounced gift for dealing with children Ineffectual m other ways, he 
was excellent with children, he had the proper, ruthless attitude towards them 
But of course, like everyone else, he despised his own especial talent His 
interests were almost purely ecclesiastical He was what people call a churchy 
young man It had always been his ambition to enter the Church, and he would 
actually have done so if he had possessed the kind of brain that is capable of 
learning Greek and Hebrew Debarred from the priesthood, he had drifted 
quite naturally into his position as a Church schoolmaster and organist It kept 
him, so to speak, within the Church precincts Needless to say, he was an 
Anglo-Catholic of the most truculent Church Times breed-more clerical than 
the clerics, knowledgeable about Church history, expert on vestments, and 
ready at any moment with a furious tirade against Modernists, Protestants, 
scientists, Bolshevists, and atheists 

‘I was thinking,’ said Dorothy as she stopped her machine and snipped off 
the thread, ‘we might make those helmets out of old bowler hats, if we can get 
hold of enough of them Cut the brims off, put on paper brims of the right 
shape and silver them over ’ 

‘Oh Lord, why worry your head about such things?’ said Victor, who had 
lost interest m the play the moment the rehearsal was over 

‘It’s those wretched jackboots that are worrying me the most,’ said Dorothy, 
taking the doublet on to her knee and looking at it 
‘Oh, bother the jackboots 1 Let’s stop thinking about the play for a moment. 
Look here,’ said Victor, unrolling his page of music, ‘I want you to speak to 
your father for me I wish you’d ask him whether we can’t have a procession 
some time next month ’ 



292 A Clergyman ’s Daughter 

‘Another procession? What for?’ 

‘Oh, I don’t know You can always find an excuse for a procession There’s 
the Nativity of the B V M coming off on the eighth-that’s good enough for a 
procession, I should think We’ll do it in style I’ve got hold of a splendid 
rousing hymn that they can all bellow, and perhaps we could borrow their blue 
banner with the Virgin Mary on it from St Wedekind’s in Millborough If he’ll 
say the word I’ll start practising the choir at once ’ 

‘You know he’ll only say no,’ said Dorothy, threading a needle to sew 
buttons on the doublet ‘He doesn’t really approve of processions It’s much 
better not to ask him and make him angry ’ 

‘Oh, but dash it all'’ protested Victor ‘It’s simply months since we’ve had a 
procession I never saw such dead-alive services as we have here You’d think 
we were a Baptist chapel or something, from the way we go on ’ 

Victor chafed ceaselessly against the dull correctness of the Rector’s 
services His ideal was what he called ‘the real Catholic worship ’-meaning 
unlimited incense, gilded images, and more Roman vestments In his capacity 
of organist he was for ever pressing for more processions, more voluptuous 
music, more elaborate chanting in the liturgy, so that it was a continuous pull 
devil, pull baker between him and the Rector And on this point Dorothy sided 
with her father Having been brought up in the peculiar, frigid via media of 
Anglicanism, she was by nature averse to and half-afraid of anything 
‘ritualistic’ 

‘But dash it all*’ went on Victor, ‘a procession is such fun' Down the aisle, 
out through the west door and back through the south door, with the choir 
carrying candles behind and the Boy Scouts in front with the banner It would 
look fine ’ He sang a stave in a thin but tuneful tenor 
‘Hail thee. Festival Day, blest day that art hallowed for ever 1 ’ 

‘If I had my way,’ he added, ‘I’d have a couple of boys swinging jolly good 
censers of incense at the same time ’ 

‘Yes, but you know how much Father dislikes that kind of thing Especially 
when it’s anything to do with the Virgin Mary He says it’s all Roman Fever 
and leads to people crossing themselves and genuflecting at the wrong times 
and goodness knows what You remember what happened at Advent ’ 

The previous year, on his own responsibility, Victor had chosen as one of 
the hymns for Advent, Number 642, with the refrain ‘Hail Mary, hail Mary, 
hail Mary full of grace*’ This piece of popishness had annoyed the Rector 
extremely At the close of the first verse he had pointedly laid down his hymn 
book, turned round in his stall and stood regarding the congregation with an 
air so stony that some of the choirboys faltered and almost broke down 
Afterwards he had said that to hear the rustics bawling ‘’Ail Mary' ’Ail Mary*’ 
made him think he was m the four-ale bar of the Dog and Bottle 

‘But dash it'’ said Victor m his aggrieved way, ‘your father always puts his 
foot down when I try and get a bit of life into the service He won’t allow us 
mcense, or decent music, or proper vestments, or anything And what’s the 
result? We can’t get enough people to fill the church a quarter full, even on 
Easter Sunday You look round the church on Sunday morning, and it’s 



A Clei gyman’ s Daughter 293 

nothing but the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides and a few old women ’ 

‘I know It’s dreadful,’ admitted Dorothy, sewing on her button ‘It doesn’t 
seem to make any difference what we do- we simply can’t get the people to 
come to church Still,’ she added, ‘they do come to us to be married and 
buried And I don’t think the congregation’s actually gone down this year 
There were nearly two hundred people at Easter Communion ’ 

‘Two hundred* It ought to be two thousand That’s the population of this 
town The fact is that three quarters of the people in this place never go near a 
church in their lives The Church has absolutely lost its hold over them They 
don’t know that it exists And why’ That’s what I’m getting at Why’’ 

‘I suppose it’s all this Science and Free Thought and all that,’ said Dorothy 
rather sententiously, quoting her father 
This remark deflected Victor from what he had been about to say He had 
been on the very point of saying that St Athelstan’s congregation had dwindled 
because of the dullness of the services, but the hated words of Science and Free 
Thought set him off in another and even more familiar channel 
‘Of course it’s this so-called Free Thought*’ he exclaimed, immediately 
beginning to fidget up and down again ‘It’s these swine of atheists like 
Bertrand Russell and Julian Huxley and all that crowd And what’s ruined the 
Church is that instead of jolly well answering them and showing them up for 
the fools and liars they are, we just sit tight and let them spread their beastly 
atheist propaganda wherever they choose It’s all the fault of the bishops, of 
course ’ (Like every Anglo-Catholic, Victor had an abysmal contempt for 
bishops ) ‘They’re all Modernists and time-servers By Jove*’ he added more 
cheerfully, halting, ‘did you see my letter m the Church Times last week’’ 
‘No, I’m afraid I didn’t,’ said Dorothy, holding another button m position 
with her thumb ‘What was it about’’ 

‘Oh, Modernist bishops and all that I got m a good swipe at old Barnes ’ 

It was very rarely that a week passed when Victor did not write a letter to the 
Church Times He was m the thick of every controversy and in the forefront of 
every assault qpon Modernists and atheists He had twice been in combat with 
Dr Major, had written letters of withering irony about Dean Inge and the 
Bishop of Birmingham, and had not hesitated to attack even the fiendish 
Russell himself-but Russell, of course, had not dared to reply Dorothy, to tell 
the truth, very seldom read the Church Times, and the Rector grew angry if he 
so much as saw a copy of it m the house The weekly paper they took in the 
Rectory was the High Churchman’s Gazette -a fine old High Tory anachronism 
with a small and select circulation 

‘That swine Russell*’ said Victor reminiscently, with his hands deep m his 
pockets ‘How he does make my blood boil*’ 

‘Isn’t that the man who’s such a clever mathematician, or something’’ said 
Dorothy, biting off her thread 

‘Oh, I dare say he’s clever enough in his own line, of course,’ admitted 
Victor grudgingly ‘But what’s that got to do with it’ Just because a man’s 
clever at figures it doesn’t mean to say that- well, anyway* Let’s come back to 
what I was saying. Why is it that we can’t get people to come to church in this 



294 A Clergyman’s Daughter 

placed It’s because our services are so dreary and godless, that’s what it is 
People want worship that is worship-they want the real Catholic worship of 
the real Catholic Church we belong to And they don’t get if from us All they 
get is the old Protestant mumbo-jumbo, and Protestantism’s as dead as a 
doornail, and everyone knows it ’ 

‘That’s not true 1 ’ said Dorothy rather sharply as she pressed the third 
button into place ‘You know we’re not Protestants Father’s always saying 
that the Church of England is the Catholic Church-he’s preached I don’t 
know how many sermons about the Apostolic Succession That’s why Lord 
Pockthorne and the others won’t come to church here Only he won’t join m 
the Anglo-Catholic movement because he thinks they’re too fond of ritualism 
for its own sake And so do I ’ 

‘Oh, I don’t say your father isn’t absolutely sound on doctrme-absolutely 
sound But if he thinks we’re the Catholic Church, why doesn’t he hold the 
service in a proper Catholic way? It’s a shame we can’t have incense 
occasionally And his ideas about vestments-if you don’t mmd my saying 
lt-are simply awful On Easter Sunday he was wearing a Gothic cope with a 
modern Italian lace alb Dash it, it’s like wearing a top hat with brown boots ’ 

‘Well, I don’t think vestments are so important as you do,’ said Dorothy ‘I 
think it’s the spirit of the priest that matters, not the clothes he wears ’ 

‘That’s the kind of thing a Primitive Methodist would say 1 ’ exclaimed 
Victor disgustedly ‘Of course vestments are important 1 Where’s the sense of 
worshipping at all if we can’t make a proper job of it? Now, if you want to see 
what real Catholic worship can be like, look at St Wedekind’s m Millborough' 
By Jove, they do things in style there 1 Images of the Virgin, reservation of the 
Sacrament-everythmg They’ve had the Kensitites on to them three times, 
and they simply defy the Bishop ’ 

‘Oh, I hate the way they go on at St Wedekind’s 1 ’ said Dorothy ‘They’re 
absolutely spiky You can hardly see what’s happening at the altar, there are 
such clouds of incense I think people like that ought to turn Roman Catholic 
and have done with it ’ 

‘My dear Dorothy, you ought to have been a Nonconformist You really 
ought A Plymouth Brother-or a Plymouth Sister or whatever it’s called I 
think your favourite hymn must be Number 567, “O my God I fear Thee, 
Thou art very High 1 ” ’ 

‘Yours is Number 231, “I nightly pitch my moving tent a day’s march 
nearer Rome*’” retorted Dorothy, winding the thread round the last button 

The argument continued for several minutes while Dorothy adorned a 
Cavalier’s beaver hat (it was an old black felt school hat of her own) with plume 
and ribbons She and Victor were never long together without being involved 
in an argument upon the question of ‘ritualism’ In Dorothy’s opinion Victor 
was a kind to ‘go over to Rome’ if not prevented, and she was very likely right 
But Victor was not yet aware of his probable destiny At present the fevers of 
the Anglo-Catholic movement, with its ceaseless exciting warfare on three 
fronts at once-Protestants to right of you, Modernists to the left of you, and, 
unfortunately, Roman Catholics to rear of you and always ready for a sly kick 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 293 

in the pants-filled his mental horizon Scoring off Dr Major m the Church 
Times meant more to him than any of the serious business of life But for all his 
churchmess he had not an atom of real piety m his constitution It was 
essentially as a game that religious controversy appealed to him-the most 
absorbing game ever invented, because it goes on for ever and because just a 
little cheating is allowed 

‘Thank goodness, that’s done 1 ’ said Dorothy, twiddling the Cavalier’s 
beaver hat round on her hand and then putting it down ‘Oh dear, what piles of 
things there are still to do, though' I wish I could get those wretched jackboots 
off my mind What’s the time, Victor’’ 

‘It’s nearly five to one ’ 

‘Oh, good gracious 1 I must run I’ve got three omelettes to make I daren’t 
trust them to Ellen And, oh, Victor' Have you got anything you can give us for 
the jumble sale’ If you had an old pair of trousers you could give us, that would 
be best of all, because we can always sell trousers ’ 

‘Trousers’ No But I tell you what I have got, though I’ve got a copy of The 
Pilgrim’s Progress and another of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs that I’ve been 
wanting to get rid of for years Beastly Protestant trash' An old Dissenting aunt 
of mine gave them to me -Doesn’t it make you sick, all this cadging for 
pennies’ Now, if we only held our services m a proper Catholic way, so that we 
could get up a proper congregation, don’t you see, we shouldn’t need-’ 

‘That’ll be splendid,’ said Dorothy ‘We always have a stall for books-we 
charge a penny for each book, and nearly all of them get sold We simply must 
make that jumble sale a success, Victor' I’m countmg on Miss Mayfill to give 
us something really nice What I’m specially hoping is that she might give us 
that beautiful old Lowestoft china tea service of hers, and we could sell it for 
five pounds at least I’ve been making special prayers all the morning that 
she’ll give it to us ’ 

‘Oh’’ said Victor, less enthusiastically than usual Like Proggett earlier m 
the morning, he was embarrassed by the word ‘prayer’ He was ready to talk all 
day long about a point of ritual, but the mention of private devotions struck 
him as slightly indecent ‘Don’t forget to ask your father about the procession,’ 
he said, getting back to a more congenial topic 

‘All right. I’ll ask him But you know how it’ll be He’ll only get annoyed and 
say it’s Roman Fever ’ 

‘Oh, damn Roman Fever' 5 said Victor, who, unlike Dorothy, did not set 
himself penances for swearing 

Dorothy hurried to the kitchen, discovered that there were only five eggs to 
make the omelettes for three people, and decided to make one large omelette and 
swell it out a bit with the cold boiled potatoes left over from yesterday. With a 
short prayer for the success of the omelette (for omelettes are so dreadfully apt 
to get broken when you take them out of the pan), she whipped up the eggs, 
while Victor made off down the drive, half wistfully and half sulkily humming 
‘Hail thee, Festival Day’, and passing on his way a disgusted-lookmg 
manservant carrying the two handleless chamber-pots which were Miss 
May fill’s contribution to the jumble sale 



6 


It was a little after ten o’clock Various things had happened-nothmg, 
however, of any particular importance, only the usual round of parish jobs that 
filled up Dorothy’s afternoon and evening Now, as she had arranged earlier in 
the day, she was at Mr Warburton’s house, and was trying to hold her own in 
one of those meandering arguments in which he delighted to entangle her 
They were talking-but indeed, Mr Warburton never failed to manoeuvre 
the conversation towards this subject-about the question of religious belief 
‘My dear Dorothy,’ he was saying argumentatively, as he walked up and 
down with one hand in his coat pocket and the other manipulating a Brazilian 
cigar ‘My dear Dorothy, you don’t seriously mean to tell me that at your 
age-twenty-seven, I believe-and with your intelligence, you will retain your 
religious beliefs more or less in toto > ’ 

‘Of course I do You know I do ’ 

‘Oh, come, now 1 The whole bag of tricks? All that nonsense that you learned 
at your mother’s knee-surely you’re not going to pretend to me that you still 
believe m it? But of course you don’t 1 You can’t 1 You’re afraid to own up, 
that’s all it is No need to worry about that here, you know The Rural Dean’s 
wife isn’t listening, and / won’t give the show away ’ 

‘I don’t know what you mean by “all that nonsense”/ began Dorothy, sitting 
up straighter m her chair, a little offended 

‘Well, let’s take an instance Something particularly hard to swallow-Hell, 
for instance Do you believe in Hell? When I say believe , mind you. I’m not 
asking whether you believe it m some milk and water metaphorical way like 
these Modernist bishops young Victor Stone gets so excited about I mean do 
you believe in it literally? Do you believe m Hell as you believe m Australia?’ 
‘Yes, of course I do,’ said Dorothy, and she endeavoured to explain to him 
that the existence of Hell is much more real and permanent than the existence 
of Australia 

‘Hm,’ said Mr Warburton, unimpressed ‘Very sound in its way, of course 
But what always makes me so suspicious of you religious people is that you’re 
so deucedly cold-blooded about your beliefs It shows a very poor imagination, 
to say the least of it Here am I an mfidel and blasphemer and neck deep m at 
least six out of the Seven Deadly, and obviously doomed to eternal torment 
There’s no knowing that in an hour’s time I mayn’t be roasting in the hottest 
part of Hell And yet you can sit there talking to me as calmly as though I’d 
nothing the matter with me Now, if I’d merely got cancer or leprosy or some 



A Clergyman's Daughter 297 

other bodily ailment, you’d be quite distressed about lt-at least, I like to flatter 
myself that you would Whereas, when I’m going to sizzle on the grid 
throughout eternity, you seem positively unconcerned about it ’ 

‘I never said you were going to Hell,’ said Dorothy somewhat 
uncomfortably, and wishing that the conversation would take a different turn 
For the truth was, though she was not gomg to tell him so, that the point Mr 
Warburton had raised was one with which she herself had had certain 
difficulties She did indeed believe in Hell, but she had never been able to 
persuade herself that anyone actually went there She believed that Hell 
existed, but that it was empty Uncertain of the orthodoxy of this belief, she 
preferred to keep it to herself ‘It’s never certain that anyone is gomg to Hell,’ 
she said more firmly, feeling that here at least she was on sure ground 
‘What 1 ’ said Mr Warburton, halting m mock surprise ‘Surely you don’t 
mean to say that there’s hope for me yet’’ 

‘Of course there is It’s only those horrid Predestination people who pretend 
that you go to Hell whether you repent or not You don’t think the Church of 
England are Calvinists, do you’’ 

‘I suppose there’s always the chance of getting off on a plea of Invincible 
Ignorance,’ said Mr Warburton reflectively, and then, more confidently ‘Do 
you know, Dorothy, I’ve a sort of feeling that even now, after knowing me two 
years, you’ve still half an idea you can make a convert of me A lost 
sheep-brand plucked from the burning, and all that I believe you still hope 
against hope that one of these days my eyes will be opened and you’ll meet me 
at Holy Communion at seven o’clock on some damned cold winter morning 
Don’t you’’ 

‘Well-’ said Dorothy, again uncomfortably She did, m fact, entertain some 
such hope about Mr Warburton, though he was not exactly a promising case 
for conversion It was not in her nature to see a fellow being m a state of 
unbelief without making some effort to reclaim him What hours she had 
spent, at different times, earnestly debating with vague village atheists who 
could not produce a single intelligible reason for their unbelief 1 ‘Yes,’ she 
admitted finally, not particularly wanting to make the admission, but not 
wanting to prevaricate 
Mr Warburton laughed delightedly. 

‘You’ve a hopeful nature,’ he said ‘But you aren’t afraid, by any chance, that 
I might convert you? “The dog it was that died”, you may remember ’ 

At this Dorothy merely smiled ‘Don’t let him see he’s shocking you’-that 
was always her maxim when she was talking to Mr Warburton. They had been 
arguing m this manner, without coming to any kmd of conclusion, for the past 
hour, and might have gone on for the rest of the night if Dorothy had been 
willing to stay, for Mr Warburton delighted in teasing her about her religious 
beliefs He had that fatal cleverness that so often goes with unbelief, and in 
their arguments, though Dorothy was always right, she was not Sways 
victorious They were sitting, or rather Dorothy was sitting and Mr 
Warburton was standing, m a large agreeable room, giving on a moonlit lawn, 
that Mr Warburton called his ‘studio’ -not that there was any sign of work ever 



2^8 A Clergyman's Daughter 

having been done in it To Dorothy’s great disappointment, the celebrated Mr 
Bewley had not turned up (As a matter of fact, neither Mr Bewley, nor his 
wife, nor his novel entitled Fishpools and Concubines , actually existed Mr 
Warburton had invented all three of them on the spur of the moment, as a 
pretext for inviting Dorothy to his house, well knowing that she would never 
come unchaperoned ) Dorothy had felt rather uneasy on finding that Mr 
Warburton was alone It had occurred to her, indeed she had felt perfectly 
certain, that it would be wiser to go home at once, but she had stayed, chiefly 
because she was horribly tired and the leather armchair into which Mr 
Warburton had thrust her the moment she entered the house was too 
comfortable to leave Now, however, her conscience was pricking her It didn't 
do to stay too late at his house-people would talk if they heard of it Besides, 
there was a multitude of jobs that she ought to be doing and that she had 
neglected in order to come here She was so little used to idleness that even an 
hour spent m mere talking seemed to her vaguely sinful 

She made an effort, and straightened herself in the too-comfortable chair C I 
think, if you don’t mind, it’s really time I was getting home,’ she said 

‘Talking of Invincible Ignorance,’ went on Mr Warburton, taking no notice 
of Dorothy’s remark, ‘I forget whether I ever told you that once when I was 
standing outside the World’s End pub m Chelsea, waiting for a taxi, a damned 
ugly little Salvation Army lassie came up to me and said-without any kind of 
introduction, you know-“What will you say at the Judgement Seat?” I said, 
“I am reserving my defence ” Rather neat, I think, don’t you?’ 

Dorothy did not answer Her conscience had given her another and harder 
jab-she had remembered those wretched, unmade jackboots, and the fact that 
at least one of them had got to be made tonight She was, however, unbearably 
tired She had had an exhausting afternoon, starting off with ten miles or so 
bicycling to and fro in the sun, delivering the parish magazine, and continuing 
with the Mothers’ Union tea in the hot little wooden-walled room behind the 
parish hall The Mothers met every Wednesday afternoon to have tea and do 
some charitable sewing while Dorothy read aloud to them (At present she was 
reading Gene Stratton Porter’s A Girl of the Limberlosl ) It was nearly always 
upon Dorothy that jobs of that kind devolved, because the phalanx of devoted 
women (the church fowls, they are called) who do the dirty work of most 
parishes had dwindled at Knype Hill to four or five at most The only helper on 
whom Dorothy ^ould count at all regularly was Miss Foote, a tall, rabbit- 
faced, dithering virgin of thirty-five, who meant well but made a mess of 
everything and was in a perpetual state of flurry Mr Warburton used to say 
that she reminded him of a comet- ‘a ridiculous blunt-nosed creature rushing 
round on an eccentric orbit and always a little behind time’ You could trust 
Miss Foote with the church decorations, but not with the Mothers or the 
Sunday School, because, though a regular churchgoer, her orthodoxy was 
suspect She had confided to Dorothy that she could worship God best under 
the blue dome of the sky After tea Dorothy had dashed up to the church to put 
fresh flowers on the altar, and then she had typed out her father’s sermon-her 
typewriter was a rickety pre-Boer War ‘invisible’, on which you couldn’t 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 299 

average eight hundred words an hour-and after supper she had weeded the 
pea rows until the light failed and her back seemed to be breaking With one 
thing and another, she was even more tired than usual 
‘I really must be getting home,’ she repeated more firmly ‘I’m sure it’s 
getting fearfully late ’ 

‘Home?’ said Mr Warburton ‘Nonsense' The evening’s hardly begun ’ 

He was walking up and down the room again, with his hands in his coat 
pockets, having thrown away his cigar The spectre of the unmade jackboots 
stalked back into Dorothy’s mind She would, she suddenly decided, make two 
jackboots tonight instead of only one, as a penance for the hour she had wasted 
She was just beginning to make a mental sketch of the way she would cut out 
the pieces of brown paper for the msteps, when she noticed that Mr 
Warburton had halted behind her chair 
‘What time is it, do you know?’ she said 

‘I dare say it might be half past ten But people like you and me don’t talk of 
such vulgar subjects as the time ’ 

‘If it’s half past ten, then I really must be going,’ said Dorothy I’ve got a 
whole lot of work to do before I go to bed ’ 

‘Work' At this time of night? Impossible'’ 

‘Yes, I have I’ve got to make a pair of jackboots ’ 

‘You’ve got to make a pair of what? said Mr Warburton 
‘Of jackboots For the play the schoolchildren are acting We make them out 
of glue and brown paper ’ 

‘Glue and brown paper' Good God 1 ’ murmured Mr Warburton He went 
on, chiefly to cover the fact that he was drawing nearer to Dorothy’s chair 
‘What a life you lead' Messing about with glue and brown paper m the middle 
of the night' I must say, there are times when I feel just a little glad that I’m not 
a clergyman’s daughter ’ 

‘I think-’ began Dorothy 

But at the same moment Mr Warburton, invisible behind her chair, had 
lowered his hands and taken her gently by the shoulders Dorothy immediately 
wriggled herself m an effort to get free of him, but Mr Warburton pressed her 
back into her place 
‘Keep still,’ he said peaceably 
‘Let me go'’ exclaimed Dorothy 

Mr Warburton ran his right hand caressingly down her upper arm There 
was something very revealing, very characteristic in the way he did it, it was 
the lingering, appraising touch of a man to whom a woman’s body is valuable 
precisely m the same way as though it were something to eat 

‘You really have extraordinary nice arms,’ he said ‘How on earth have you 
managed to remain unmarried all these years?’ 

‘Let me go at once'’ repeated Dorothy, beginning to struggle again 
‘But I don’t particularly want to let you go,’ objected Mr Warburton 
* Please don’t stroke my arm like that' I don’t like it' 5 
‘What a curious child you are' Why don’t you like it? 5 
‘I tell you I don’t like it' 5 



yoo A Clergyman ’ ? Daughtei 

‘Now don’t go and turn round,’ said Mr Warburton mildly ‘ Y ou don’t seem 
to realize how tactful it was on my part to approach you from behind your 
back If you turn round you’ll see that I’m old enough to be your father, and 
hideously bald into the bargain But if you’ll only keep still and not look at me 
you can imagine I’m Ivor Novello ’ 

Dorothy caught sight of the hand that was caressing her- a large, pink, ver> 
masculine hand, with thick fingers and a fleece of gold hairs upon the back She 
turned very pale, the expression of her face altered from mere annoyance to 
aversion and dread She made a violent effort, wrenched herself free, and stood 
up, facing him 

‘I do wish you wouldn’t do that 1 ’ she said, half in anger and half in distress 
‘What is the matter with you’’ said Mr Warburton 

He had stood upright, in his normal pose, entirely unconcerned, and he 
looked at her with a touch of curiosity Her face had changed It was not only 
that she had turned pale, there was a withdrawn, half-frightened look in her 
eyes-almost as though, for the moment, she were looking at him with the eyes 
of a stranger He perceived that he had wounded her m some way which he did 
not understand, and which perhaps she did not want him to understand 
‘What is the matter with you’’ he repeated 
'Why must you do that every time you meet me’’ 

“‘Every time I meet you” is an exaggeration,’ said Mr Warburton ‘It’s 
really very seldom that I get the opportunity But if you really and truly don’t 
like it-’ 

‘Of course I don’t like it' You know I don’t like it 1 ’ 

‘Well, well 1 Then let’s say no more about it,’ said Mr Warburton 
generously ‘Sit down, and we’ll change the subject ’ 

He was totally devoid of shame It was perhaps his most outstanding 
characteristic Having attempted to seduce her, and failed, he was quite willing 
to go on with the conversation as though nothing whatever had happened 
‘I’m going home at once,’ said Dorothy ‘I can’t stay here any longer ’ 

‘Oh nonsense 1 Sit down and forget about it We’ll talk of moral theology, or 
cathedral architecture, or the Girl Guides’ cooking classes, or anything you 
choose Think how bored I shall be all alone if you go home at this hour ’ 

But Dorothy persisted, and there was an argument Even if it had not been 
his intention to make love to her-and whatever he might promise he would 
certainly begin again m a few minutes if she did not go-Mr Warburton would 
have pressed her to stay, for, like all thoroughly idle people, he had a horror of 
going to bed and no conception of the value of time He would, if you let him, 
keep you talking till three or four m the morning Even when Dorothy finally 
escaped, he walked beside her down the moonlit drive, still talking 
voluminously and with such perfect good humour that she found it impossible 
to be angry with him any longer 

‘I’m leaving first thing tomorrow,’ he told her as they reached the gate ‘I’m 
going to take the car to town and pick up the kids- the bastards, , you know- and 
we’re leaving for France the next day I’m not certain where we shall go after 
that, eastern Europe, perhaps Prague, Vienna, Bucharest ’ 



A Clergyman" s Daughter 301 

‘How nice,’ said Dorothy 

Mr Warburton, with an adroitness surprising m so large and stout a man, 
had manoeuvred himself between Dorothy and the gate 
‘I shall be away six months or more,’ he said ‘And of course I needn’t ask, 
before so long a parting, whether you want to kiss me good-bye ? ’ 

Before she knew what he was doing he had put his arm about her and drawn 
her against him She drew back-too late, he kissed her on the cheek-would 
have kissed her on the mouth if she had not turned her head away in time She 
struggled in his arms, violently and for a moment helplessly 
‘Oh, let me go'’ she cried ‘ Do let me go!’ 

‘I believe I pointed out before,’ said Mr Warburton, holding her easily 
against him, ‘that I don’t want to let you go ’ 

‘But we’re standing right m front of Mrs SemprilPs window' She’ll see us 
absolutely for certain'’ 

‘Oh, good God' So she will 1 ’ said Mr Warburton ‘I was forgetting ’ 
Impressed by this argument, as he would not have been by any other, he let 
Dorothy go She promptly put the gate between Mr Warburton and herself 
He, meanwhile, was scrutinizing Mrs Sempnll’s windows 

‘I can’t see a light anywhere,’ he said finally ‘With any luck the blasted hag 
hasn’t seen us ’ 

‘Good-bye,’ said Dorothy briefly ‘This time I really must go Remember me 
to the children ’ 

With this she made off as fast as she could go without actually running, to get 
out of his reach before he should attempt to kiss her again 

Even as she did so a sound checked her for an mstant-the unmistakable 
bang of a window shutting, somewhere in Mrs Semprill’s house Could Mrs 
Semprill have been watching them after alP But (reflected Dorothy) of course 
she had been watching them' What else could you expect^ You could hardly 
imagine Mrs Semprill missing such a scene as that And if she had been 
watching them, undoubtedly the story would be all over the town tomorrow 
morning, and it would lose nothing in the telling But this thought, sinister 
though it was, did no more than flight momentarily through Dorothy’s mind as 
she hurried down the road 

When she was well out of sight of Mr Warburton’s house she stopped, took 
out her handkerchief and scrubbed the place on her cheek where he had kissed 
her She scrubbed it vigorously enough to bring the blood into her cheek It 
was not until she had quite rubbed out the imaginary stam which his bps had 
left there that she walked on again 

What he had done had upset her Even now her heart was knocking and 
fluttering uncomfortably I can’t hear that kind of thing' she repeated to herself 
several times over And unfortunately this was no more than the literal truth, 
she really could not bear it To be kissed or fondled by a man- to feel heavy 
male arms about her and thick male lips bearing down upon her own-was 
terrifying and repulsive to her Even m memory or imagination it made her 
wmce It was her especial secret, the especial, incurable disability that she 
carried through life 



go 2 A Clergyman 3 s Daughter 

If only they would leave you alone ] she thought as she walked onwards a 
little more slowly That was how she put it to herself habitually- ‘If only they 
would leave you alone '’ For it was not that m other ways she disliked men On 
the contrary, she liked them better than women Part of Mr Warburton’s hold 
over her was m the fact that he was a man and had the careless good humour 
and the intellectual largeness that women so seldom have But why couldn’t 
they leave you alone > Why did they always have to kiss you and maul you 
about’ They were dreadful when they kissed you-dreadful and a little 
disgusting, like some large, furry beast that rubs itself against you, all too 
friendly and yet liable to turn dangerous at any moment And beyond their 
kissing and mauling there lay always the suggestion of those other, monstrous 
things (‘all that 3 was her name for them) of which she could hardly even bear to 
think 

Of course, she had had her share, and rather more than her share, of casual 
attention from men She was just pretty enough, and just plain enough, to be 
the kind of girl that men habitually pester For when a man wants a little casual 
amusement, he usually picks out a girl who is not too pretty Pretty girls (so he 
reasons) are spoilt and therefore capricious, but plain girls are easy game And 
even if you are a clergyman’s daughter, even if you live m a town like Knype 
Hill and spend almost your entire life in parish work, you don’t altogether 
escape pursuit Dorothy was all too used to it— all too used to the fattish 
middle-aged men, with their fishily hopeful eyes, who slowed down their cars 
when you passed them on the road, or who manoeuvred an introduction and 
then began pinching your elbow about ten minutes afterwards Men of all 
descriptions Even a clergyman, on one occasion-a bishop’s chaplain, he 
was 

But the trouble was that it was not better, but oh* infinitely worse when they 
were the right kind of man and the advances they made you were honourable 
Her mind slipped backwards five years, to Francis Moon, curate m those days 
at St Wedekind’s in Millborough Dear Francis 1 How gladly would she have 
married him if only it had not been for all that ' Over and over again he had 
asked her to marry him, and of course she had had to say No, and, equally of 
course, he had never known why Impossible to tell him why And then he had 
gone away, and only a year later had died so irrelevantly of pneumonia She 
whispered a prayer for his soul, momentarily forgetting that her father did not 
really approve of prayers for the dead, and then, with an effort, pushed the 
memory aside Ah, better not to think of it again' It hurt her in her breast to 
think of it. 

She could never marry, she had decided long ago upon that Even when she 
was a child she had known it Nothing would ever overcome her horror of all 
that-st the very thought of it something within her seemed to shrink and 
freeze. And of course, in a sense she did not want to overcome it For, like all 
abnormal people, she was not fully aware that she was abnormal 

And yet, though her sexual coldness seemed to her natural and inevitable, 
she knew well enough how it was that it had begun She could remember, as 
clearly as though it were yesterday, certain dreadful scenes between her father 



A Clergyman's Daughter 303 

and her mother- scenes that she had witnessed when she was no more than 
nine years old They had left a deep, secret wound m her mind And then a 
little later she had been frightened by some old steel engravings of nymphs 
pursued by satyrs To her childish mind there was something inexplicably, 
horribly sinister in those horned, semi-human creatures that lurked m thickets 
and behind large trees, ready to come bounding forth in sudden swift pursuit 
For a whole year of her childhood she had actually been afraid to walk through 
woods alone, for fear of satyrs She had grown out of the fear, of course, but not 
out of the feeling that was associated with it The satyr had remained with her 
as a symbol Perhaps she would never grow out of it, that special feeling of 
dread, of hopeless flight from something more than rationally dreadful-the 
stamp of hooves in the lonely wood, the lean, furry thighs of the satyr It was a 
thing not to be altered, not to be argued away It is, moreover, a thing too 
common nowadays, among educated women, to occasion any kind of surprise 

Most of Dorothy’s agitation had disappeared by the time she reached the 
Rectory The thoughts of satyrs and Mr Warburton, of Francis Moon and her 
foredoomed sterility, which had been going to and fro in her mind, faded out of 
it and were replaced by the accusing image of a jackboot She remembered that 
she had the best part of two hours’ work to do before going to bed tonight The 
house was m darkness She went round to the back and slipped m on tiptoe by 
the scullery door, for fear of waking her father, who was probably asleep 
already 

As she felt her way through the dark passage to the conservatory, she 
suddenly decided that she had gone wrong m going to Mr Warburton’s house 
tonight She would, she resolved, never go there again, even when she was 
certain that somebody else would be there as well Moreover, she would do 
penance tomorrow for having gone there tonight Having lighted the lamp, 
before doing anything else she found her ‘memo list’, which was already 
written out for tomorrow, and pencilled a capital P against ‘breakfast’, P stood 
for penance-no bacon again for breakfast tomorrow Then she lighted the 
oilstove under the glue-pot 

The light of the lamp fell yellow upon her sewing-machine and upon the pile 
of half-finished clothes on the table, reminding her of the yet greater pile of 
clothes that were not even begun, reminding her, also, that she was dreadfully, 
overwhelmingly tired She had forgotten her tiredness at the moment when 
Mr Warburton laid his hands on her shoulders, but now it had come back upon 
her with double force Moreover, there was a somehow exceptional quality 
about her tiredness tonight She felt, m an almost literal sense of the words, 
washed out As she stood beside the table she had a sudden, very strange 
feeling as though her mind had been entirely emptied, so that for several 
seconds she actually forgot what it was that she had come into the conservatory 
to do 

Then she remembered-the jackboots, of course 1 Some contemptible little 
demon whispered m her ear, ‘Why not go straight to bed and leave the 
jackboots till tomorrow?’ She uttered a prayer for strength, and pinched 
herself Come on, Dorothy 1 No slacking please 1 Luke ix, 62 Then, clearing 



204 A Clergyman’ s Daughter 

some of the litter off the table, she got out her scissors, a pencil, and four sheets 
of brown paper, and sat down to cut out those troublesome insteps for the 
jackboots while the glue was boiling 

When the grandfather clock in her father’s study struck midnight she was 
still at work She had shaped both jackboots by this time, and was reinforcing 
them by pasting narrow strips of paper all over them-a long, messy job Every 
bone in her body was aching, and her eyes were sticky with sleep Indeed, it 
was only rather dimly that she remembered what she was doing But she 
worked on, mechanically pasting strip after strip of paper into place, and 
pinching herself every two minutes to counteract the hypnotic sound of the 
oilstove singing beneath the glue-pot 


CHAPTER 2 

I 


Out of a black, dreamless sleep, with the sense of being drawn upwards 
through enormous and gradually lightening abysses, Dorothy awoke to a 
species of consciousness 

Her eyes were still closed By degrees, however, their lids became less 
opaque to the light, and then flickered open of their own accord She was 
looking out upon a street-a shabby, lively street of small shops and narrow- 
faced houses, with streams of men, trams, and cars passing in either direction 

But as yet it could not properly be said that she was looking For the things 
she saw were not apprehended as men, trams, and cars, nor as anything m 
particular, they were not even apprehended as things moving, not even as 
things „ She merely sazo } as an animal sees, without speculation and almost 
without consciousness. The noises of the street- the confused din of voices, the 
hooting of horns and the scream of the trams grinding on their gritty 
rails-flowed through her head provoking purely physical responses She had 
no words, nor any conception of the purpose of such things as words, nor any 
consciousness of time or place, or of her own body or even of her own 
existence 

Nevertheless, by degrees her perceptions became sharper The stream of 
moving things began to penetrate beyond her eyes and sort themselves out into 
separate images in her brain She began, still wordlessly, to observe the shapes 
of things A long-shaped thing swam past, supported on four other, narrower 
long-shaped things, and drawing after it a square-shaped thmg balanced on 
two circles, Dorothy watched it pass, and suddenly, as though spontaneously, 
a word flashed into her mind The word was ‘horse’ It faded, but returned 
presently in the more complex form ‘ That is a horse*’ Other words 
followed- ‘house’, ‘street’, ‘tram’, ‘car’, ‘bicycle’-until m a few minutes she 
had found a name for almost everything within sight She discovered the 



A Clergyman’ s Daughter 305 

words ‘man’ and ‘woman’, and, speculating upon these words, discovered that 
she knew the difference between living and inanimate things, and between 
human beings and horses, and between men and women 

It was only now, after becoming aware of most of the things about her, that 
she became aware of herself Hitherto she had been as it were a pair of eyes with 
a receptive but purely impersonal brain behind them But now, with a curious 
little shock, she discovered her separate and umque existence, she could feel 
herself existing, it was as though something within her were exclaiming ‘I am 
I 1 ’ Also, in some way she knew that this ‘I’ had existed and been the same from 
remote periods in the past, though it was a past of which she had no 
remembrance 

But it was only for a moment that this discovery occupied her From the first 
there was a sense of incompleteness m it, of something vaguely unsatisfactory 
And it was this the ‘I am I’ which had seemed an answer had itself become a 
question It was no longer ‘I am I’, but ‘who ami’ 5 

Who was she ? She turned the question over m her mmd, and found that she 
had not the dimmest notion of who she was, except that, watching the people 
and horses passing, she grasped that she was a human being and not a horse 
And that the question altered itself and took this form ‘Am I a man or a 
woman 55 ’ Again neither feeling nor memory gave any clue to the answer But at 
that moment, by accident possibly, her finger-tips brushed against her body 
She realized more clearly than before that her body existed, and that it was her 
own-that it was, m fact, herself She began to explore it with her hands, and 
her hands encountered breasts She was a woman, therefore Only women had 
breasts In some way she knew, without knowing how she knew, that all those 
women who passed had breasts beneath their clothes, though she could not see 
them 

She now grasped that in order to identify herself she must examine her own 
body, beginning with her face, and for some moments she actually attempted 
to look at her own face, before realizing that this was impossible She looked 
down, and saw a shabby black satin dress, rather long, a pair of flesh-coloured 
artificial silk stockings, laddered and dirty, and a pair of very shabby black 
satin shoes with high heels None of them was in the least familiar to her She 
examined her hands, and they were both strange and unstrange. They were 
smallish hands, with hard palms, and very dirty. After a moment she realized 
that it was their dirtiness that made them strange to her The hands themselves 
seemed natural and appropriate, though she did not recognize them 

After hesitating a few moments longer, she turned to her left and began to 
walk slowly along the pavement A fragment of knowledge had come to her, 
mysteriously, out of the blank past the existence of mirrors, their purpose, and 
the fact that there are often mirrors m shop windows After a moment she came 
to a cheap little jeweller’s shop in which a strip of mirror, set at an angle, 
reflected the faces of people passing Dorothy picked her reflection out from 
among a dozen others, immediately realizing it to be her own Yet it could not 
be said that she had recognized it, she had no memory of ever havmg seen it till 
this moment It showed her a woman’s youngish face, thin, very blonde, with 



306 A Clergyman's Daughter 

crow’s-feet round the eyes, and faintly smudged with dirt A vulgar black 
cloche hat was stuck carelessly on the head, concealing most of the hair The 
face was quite unfamiliar to her, and yet not strange She had not known till 
this moment what face to expect, but now that she had seen it she realized that 
it was the face she might have expected It was appropriate It corresponded to 
something within her 

As she turned away from the jeweller’s mirror, she caught sight of the words 
‘Fry’s Chocolate’ on a shop window opposite, and discovered that she 
understood the purpose of writing, and also, after a momentary effort, that she 
was able to read Her eyes flitted across the street, taking m and deciphering 
odd scraps of print, the names of shops, advertisements, newspaper posters 
She spelled out the letters of two red and white posters outside a tobacconist’s 
shop One of them read, ‘Fresh Rumours about Rector’s Daughter’, and the 
other, ‘Rector’s Daughter Now believed in Paris’ Then she looked upwards, 
and saw in white lettering on the corner of a house ‘New Kent Road’ The 
words arrested her She grasped that she was standing in the New Kent Road, 
and-another fragment of her mysterious knowledge-the New Kent Road was 
somewhere in London So she was m London 

As she made this discovery a peculiar tremor ran through her Her mind was 
now fully awakened, she grasped, as she had not grasped before, the 
strangeness of her situation, and it bewildered and frightened her What could 
it all mean> What was she doing here? How had she got here? What had 
happened to her? 

The answer was not long in coming She thought-and it seemed to her that 
she understood perfectly well what the words meant ‘Of course 1 I’ve lost my 
memory 1 ’ 

At this moment two youths and a girl who were trudging past, the youths 
with clumsy sacking bundles on their backs, stopped and looked curiously at 
Dorothy They hesitated for a moment, then walked on, but halted again by a 
lamp-post five yards away Dorothy saw them looking back at her and talking 
among themselves One of the youths was about twenty, narrow-chested, 
black-haired, ruddy-cheeked, good-looking m a nosy cockney way, and 
dressed in the wreck of a raffishly smart blue suit and a check cap The other 
was about twenty-six, squat, nimble, and powerful, with a snub nose, a clear 
pink skin and huge lips as coarse as sausages, exposing strong yellow teeth He 
was frankly ragged, and he had a mat of orange-coloured hair cropped short 
and growing low on his head, which gave him a startling resemblance to an 
orang-outang. The girl was a silly-looking, plump creature, dressed in clothes 
very like Dorothy’s own Dorothy could hear some of what they were saying 

‘That tart looks ill,’ said the girl 

The orange-headed one, who was singing ‘Sonny Boy’ m a good baritone 
voice, stopped singing to answer ‘She ain’t ill,’ he said ‘She’s on the beach all 
right, though Same as us ’ 

‘She’d do jest nicely for Nobby, wouldn’t she?’ said the dark-haired one 

‘Oh, you v exclaimed the girl with a shocked-amorous air, pretending to 
smack the dark one over the head 



A Clergyman’ s Daughter 307 

The youths had lowered their bundles and leaned them against the lamp- 
post All three of them now came rather hesitantly towards Dorothy, the 
orange-headed one, whose name seemed to be Nobby, leading the way as their 
ambassador He moved with a gambolling, apelike gait, and his grm was so 
frank and wide that it was impossible not to smile back at him He addressed 
Dorothy m a friendly way 
‘Hullo, kid 1 ’ 

‘Hullo 1 ’ 

‘You on the beach, kid?’ 

‘On the beach?’ 

‘Well, on the bum?’ 

‘On the bum?’ 

‘Christ! she’s batty,’ murmured the girl, twitching at the black-haired one’s 
arm as though to pull him away 

‘Well, what I mean to say, kid-have you got any money?’ 

‘I don’t know ’ 

At this all three looked at one another in stupefaction For a moment they 
probably thought that Dorothy really was batty But simultaneously Dorothy, 
who had earlier discovered a small pocket in the side of her dress, put her hand 
into it and felt the outline of a large com 
‘I believe I’ve got a penny,’ she said 

‘A penny' 5 said the dark youth disgustedly, ‘-lot of good that is to us 1 ’ 
Dorothy drew it out It was a half-crown An astonishing change came over 
the faces of the three others Nobby’s mouth split open with delight, he 
gambolled several steps to and fro like some great jubilant ape, and then, 
halting, took Dorothy confidentially by the arm 

‘That’s the mulligatawny'’ he said ‘We’ve struck it lucky-and so’ve you, 
kid, believe me You’re going to bless the day you set eyes on us lot We’re 
going to make your fortune for you, we are Now, see here, kid-are you on to 
go into cahoots with us three?’ 

‘What?’ said Dorothy 

‘What I mean to say-how about you chumming in with Flo and Charlie and 
me? Partners, see? Comrades all, shoulder to shoulder United we stand, 
divided we fall. We put up the brains, you put up the money How about it, 
kid? Are you on, or are you off?’ 

‘Shut up, Nobby 1 ’ interrupted the girl ‘She don’t understand a word of 
what you’re saying Talk to her proper, can’t you?’ 

‘That’ll do, Flo,’ said Nobby equably ‘You keep it shut and leave the 
talking to me I got a way with the tarts, I have Now, you listen to me, 
kid-what might your name happen to be, kid?’ 

Dorothy was within an ace of saying ‘I don’t know,’ but she was sufficiently 
on the alert to stop herself in time Choosing a feminine name from the half- 
dozen that sprang immediately into her mind, she answered, ‘Ellen ’ 

‘Ellen That’s the mulligatawny No surnames when you’re on the bum 
Well now, Ellen dear, you listen to me. Us three are going down hopping, 
see-* 



A Clergyman’ s Daughter 


308 

‘Hopping?’ 

‘’Oppmg’’ put m the dark youth impatiently, as though disgusted by 
Dorothy’s ignorance His voice and manner were rather sullen, and his accent 
much baser than Nobby’s ‘Pickin’ ’ops-dahn in Kent 1 C’n understand that, 
can’t yer?’ 

‘Oh, hops' For beer?’ 

‘That’s the mulligatawny’ Coming on fine, she is Well, kid, ’z I was saying, 
here’s us three going down hopping, and got a job promised us and 
all-Blessington’s farm, Lower Molesworth Only we’re just a bit m the 
mulligatawny, see? Because we ain’t got a brown between us, and we got to do 
it on the toby- thirty-five miles it is -and got to tap for our tommy and skipper 
at night as well And that’s a bit of a mulligatawny, with ladies m the party But 
now s’pose f rmstance you was to come along with us, see? We c’d take the 
twopenny tram far as Bromley, and that’s fifteen miles done, and we won’t 
need skipper more’n one night on the way And you can chum in at our 
bm-four to a bin’s the best pickmg-and if Blessington’s paying twopence a 
bushel you’ll turn your ten bob a week easy What do you say to it, kid? Your 
two and a tanner won’t do you much good here in Smoke But you go into 
partnership with us, and you’ll get your kip for a month and something 
over-and we’ll get a lift to Bromley and a bit of scran as well ’ 

About a quarter of his speech was intelligible to Dorothy She asked rather at 
random 

‘What is scran * ’ 

‘Scran? Tommy-food I can see you ain’t been long on the beach, kid ’ 

‘Oh Well, you want me to come down hop-picking with you, is that it?’ 
‘That’s it, Ellen my dear Are you on, or are you off?’ 

‘AH right,’ said Dorothy promptly ‘I’ll come ’ 

She made this decision without any misgiving whatever It is true that if she 
had had time to think over her position, she would probably have acted 
differently, in all probability she would have gone to a police station and asked 
for assistance That would have been the sensible course to take But Nobby 
and the others had appeared just at the critical moment, and, helpless as she 
was, it seemed quite natural to throw m her lot with the first human being who 
presented himself. Moreover, for some reason which she did not understand, it 
reassured her to hear that they were making for Kent Kent, it seemed to her, 
was the very place to which she wanted to go The others showed no further 
curiosity, and asked no uncomfortable questions Nobby simply said, ‘O K 
That’s the mulligatawny’’ and then gently took Dorothy’s half-crown out of 
her hand and slid it into his pocket-in case she should lose it, he explained 
The dark youth-apparently his name was Charlie- said m his surly, 
disagreeable way 

‘Come on, less get movin’’ It’s ’ar-parse two already We don’t want to miss 
that there — tram. Where d’they start from. Nobby?’ 

‘The Elephant,’ said Nobby ‘and we got to catch it before four o’clock, 
because they don’t give no free rides after four ’ 

‘Come on, then, don’t less waste no more time Nice job we’ll ’ave of it if we 



A Clergyman 's Daughter 309 

got to ’ike it down to Bromley and look for a place to skipper in the — dark 
C’m on, Flo ’ 

‘Quick march 1 ’ said Nobby, swinging his bundle on to his shoulder 
They set out, without more words said, Dorothy, still bewildered but feeling 
much better than she had felt half an hour ago, walked beside Flo and Charlie, 
who talked to one another and took no further notice of her From the very first 
they seemed to hold themselves a little aloof from Dorothy- willing enough to 
share her half-crown, but with no friendly feelings towards her Nobby 
marched m front, stepping out briskly m spite of his burden, and singing, with 
spirited imitations of military music, the well-known military song of which 
the only recorded words seem to be 

was all the band could play, 

“ — 1 — And the same to you 1 ’ 


2 


This was the twenty-ninth of August It was on the mght of the twenty-first 
that Dorothy had fallen asleep in the conservatory, so that there had been an 
interregnum in her life of not quite eight days 

The thing that had happened to her was commonplace enough-almost 
every week one reads m the newspapers of a similar case A man disappears 
from home, is lost sight of for days or weeks, and presently fetches up at a 
police station or m a hospital, with no notion of who he is or where he has come 
from As a rule it is impossible to tell how he has spent the intervening time, he 
has been wandering, presumably, m some hypnotic or somnambulistic state m 
which he has nevertheless been able to pass for normal In Dorothy’s case only 
one thing is certain, and that is that she had been robbed at some time durmg 
her travels, for the clothes she was wearing were not her own, and her gold 
cross was missing 

At the moment when Nobby accosted her, she was already on the road to 
recovery; and if she had been properly cared for, her memory might have come 
back to her within a few days or even hours, A very small thing would have 
been enough to accomplish it, a chance meeting with a friend, a photograph of 
her home, a few questions skilfully put But as it was, the slight mental 
stimulus that she needed was never given. She was left in the peculiar state m 
which she had first found herself-a state m which her mind was potentially 
normal, but not quite strung up to the effort of puzzling out her own identity. 

For of course, once she had thrown in her lot with Nobby and the others, all 
chance of reflection was gone There was no time to sit down and think the 
matter over-no time to come to grips with her difficulty and reason her way to 
its solution In the strange, dirty sub-world into which she was instantly 



gio A Clergyman’ s Daughter 

plunged, even five minutes of consecutive thought would have been 
impossible The days passed m ceaseless nightmarish activity Indeed, it was 
very like a nightmare, a nightmare not of urgent terrors, but of hunger, 
squalor, and fatigue, and of alternating heat and cold Afterwards, when she 
looked back upon that time, days and nights merged themselves together so 
that she could never remember with perfect certainty how many of them there 
had been She only knew that for some indefinite period she had been 
perpetually footsore and almost perpetually hungry Hunger and the soreness 
of her feet were her clearest memories of that time, and also the cold of the 
nights, and a peculiar, blowsy, witless feeling that came of sleeplessness and 
constant exposure to the air 

After getting to Bromley they had ‘drummed up’ on a horrible, paper- 
littered rubbish dump, reeking with the refuse of several slaughter-houses, 
and then passed a shuddering night, with only sacks for cover, in long wet 
grass on the edge of a recreation ground In the morning they had started out, 
on foot, for the hopfields Even at this early date Dorothy had discovered that 
the tale Nobby had told her, about the promise of a job, was totally untrue He 
had invented it~he confessed this quite light-heartedly-to induce her to come 
with them Their only chance of getting a job was to march down into the hop 
country and apply at every farm till they found one where pickers were still 
needed 

They had perhaps thirty-five miles to go, as the crow flies, and yet at the end 
of three days they had barely reached the fringe of the hopfields The need of 
getting food, of course, was what slowed their progress They could have 
marched the whole distance in two days or even in a day if they had not been 
obliged to feed themselves As it was, they had hardly even time to think of 
whether they were going m the direction of the hopfields or not, it was food 
that dictated all their movements Dorothy’s half-crown had melted within a 
few hours, and after that there was nothing for it except to beg But there came 
the difficulty One person can beg his food easily enough on the road, and even 
two can manage it, but it is a very different matter when there are four people 
together In such circumstances one can only keep alive if one hunts for food as 
persistently and single-mmdedly as a wild beast Food-that was their sole 
preoccupation during those three days-just food, and the endless difficulty of 
getting it 

From morning to night they were begging They wandered enormous 
distances, zigzagging right across the country, trailing from village to village 
and from house to house, ‘tapping’ at every butcher’s and every baker’s and 
every likely looking cottage, and hanging hopefully round picnic parties, and 
wavmg-always vamly-at passing cars, and accosting old gentlemen with the 
right kind of face and pitching hard-up stones Often they went five miles out 
of their way to get a crust of bread or a handful of scraps of bacon. All of them 
begged, Dorothy with the others, she had no remembered past, no standards of 
comparison to make her ashamed of it And yet with all their efforts they would 
have gone empty-bellied half the time if they had not stolen as well as begged 
At dusk and in the early mornings they pillaged the orchards and the fields. 



A Clergyman's Daughter 31 1 

stealing apples, damsons, pears, cobnuts, autumn raspberries, and, above all, 
potatoes, Nobby counted it a sm to pass a potato field without getting at least a 
pocketful It was Nobby who did most of the stealing, while the others kept 
guard He was a bold thief, it was his peculiar boast that he would steal 
anything that was not tied down, and he would have landed them all m prison 
if they had not restrained him sometimes Once he even laid hands on a goose, 
but the goose set up a fearful clamour, and Charlie and Dorothy dragged 
Nobby off just as the owner came out of doors to see what was the matter 
Each of those first days they walked between twenty and twenty-five miles 
They trailed across commons and through buried villages with incredible 
names, and lost themselves in lanes that led nowhere, and sprawled exhausted 
in dry ditches smelling of fennel and tansies, and sneaked into private woods 
and ‘drummed up’ m thickets were firewood and water were handy, and 
cooked strange, squalid meals m the two two-pound snuff-tins that were their 
only cooking pots Sometimes, when their luck was in, they had excellent stews 
of cadged bacon and stolen cauliflowers, sometimes great insipid gorges of 
potatoes roasted m the ashes, sometimes jam made of stolen autumn 
raspberries which they boiled in one of the snuff-tins and devoured while it 
was still scalding hot Tea was the one thing they never ran short of Even 
when there was no food at all there was always tea, stewed, dark brown and 
reviving It is a thing that can be begged more easily than most ‘Please, 
ma’am, could you spare me a pinch of tea^’ is a plea that seldom fails, even with 
the case-hardened Kentish housewives 

The days were burning hot, the white roads glared and the passing cars sent 
stinging dust into their faces Often families of hop-pickers drove past, 
cheering, in lorries piled sky-high with furniture, children, dogs, and 
birdcages The nights were always cold There is hardly such a thing as a night 
in England when it is really warm after midnight Two large sacks were all the 
bedding they had between them Flo and Charlie had one sack, Dorothy had 
the other, and Nobby slept on the bare ground The discomfort was almost as 
bad as the cold If you lay on your back, your head, with no pillow, lolled 
backwards so that your neck seemed to be breaking, if you lay on your side, 
your hip-bone pressing against the earth caused you torments Even when, 
towards the small hours, you managed to fall asleep by fits and starts, the cold 
penetrated into your deepest dreams Nobby was the only one who could really 
stand it He could sleep as peacefully in a nest of sodden grass as in a bed, and 
his coarse, simian face, with barely a dozen red-gold hairs glittering on the chm 
like snippmgs of copper wire, never lost its warm, pink colour He was one of 
those red-haired people who seem to glow with an inner radiance that warms 
not only themselves but the surrounding air 

All this strange, comfortless life Dorothy took utterly for granted-only 
dimly aware, if at all, that the other, unremembered life that lay behind her had 
been m some way different from this After only a couple of days she had 
ceased to wonder any longer about her queer predicament She accepted 
everythmg-accepted the dirt and hunger and fatigue, the endless trailing to 
and fro, the hot, dusty days and the sleepless, shivering nights. She was, m any 



312 A Clergyman’s Daughter 

case, far too tired to think By the afternoon of the second day they were all 
desperately, overwhelmingly tired, except Nobby, whom nothing could tire 
Even the fact that soon after they set out a nail began to work its way through 
the sole of his boot hardly seemed to trouble him There were periods of an 
hour at a time when Dorothy seemed almost to be sleeping as she walked She 
had a burden to carry now, for as the two men were already loaded and Flo 
steadfastly refused to carry anything, Dorothy had volunteered to carry the 
sack that held the stolen potatoes They generally had ten pounds or so of 
potatoes in reserve Dorothy slung the sack over her shoulder as Nobby and 
Charlie did with their bundles, but the string cut into her like a saw and the 
sack bumped against her hip and chafed it so that finally it began to bleed Her 
wretched, flimsy shoes had begun to go to pieces from the very beginning On 
the second day the heel of her right shoe came off and left her hobbling, but 
Nobby, expert m such matters, advised her to tear the heel off the other shoe 
and walk flatfooted The result was a fiery pain down her shins when she 
walked uphill, and a feeling as though the soles of her feet had been hammered 
with an iron bar 

But Flo and Charlie were in a much worse case than she They were not so 
much exhausted as amazed and scandalized by the distances they were 
expected to walk Walking twenty miles m a day was a thing they had never 
heard of till now They were cockneys born and bred, and though they had had 
several months of destitution in London, neither of them had ever been on the 
road before Charlie, till fairly recently, had been m good employment, and 
Flo, too, had had a good home until she had been seduced and turned out of 
doors to live on the streets They had fallen in with Nobby in Trafalgar Square 
and agreed to come hop-picking with him, imagining that it would be a bit of a 
lark Of course, having been ‘on the beach’ a comparatively short time, they 
looked down on Nobby and Dorothy They valued Nobby’s knowledge of the 
road and his boldness in thieving, but he was their social mferior-that was 
their attitude And as for Dorothy, they scarcely even deigned to look at her 
after her half-crown came to an end 

Even on the second day their courage was failing They lagged behind, 
grumbled incessantly, and demanded more than their fair share of food By 
the third day it was almost impossible to keep them on the road at all They 
were pining to be back in London, and had long ceased to care whether they 
ever got to the hopfields or not, all they wanted to do was to sprawl in any 
comfortable halting place they could find, and, when there was any food left, 
devour endless snacks, After every halt there was a tedious argument before 
they could be got to their feet again 

‘Come on, blokes 1 ’ Nobby would say ‘Pack your peter up, Charlie Time we 
was getting off ” 5 

‘Oh, — getting off 1 ’ Charlie would answer morosely 

‘Well, we can’t skipper here, can we^ We said we was going to hike as far as 
Sevenoaks tonight, didn’t we>’ 

‘Oh, — Sevenoaks 1 Sevenoaks or any other bleeding place-it don’t make 
any bleeding difference to me ’ 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 31 3 

‘But — it' We want to get a job tomorrow, don’t we ? And we got to get down 
among the farms ’fore we can start looking for one ’ 

‘Oh, — the farms' I wish I’d never ’eard of a — ’op' I wasn’t brought up to 
this-’ikmg and skippering like you was I’m fed up, that’s what I am — fed 
up ’ 

‘If this is bloody ’oppmg,’ Flo would chime in, ‘I’ve ’ad my bloody bellyful 
of it already ’ 

Nobby gave Dorothy his private opinion that Flo and Charlie would 
probably ‘jack ofF if they got the chance of a lift back to London But as for 
Nobby, nothing disheartened him or ruffled his good temper, not even when 
the nail in his boot was at its worst and his filthy remnant of a sock was dark 
with blood By the third day the nail had worn a permanent hole m his foot, 
and Nobby had to halt once in a mile to hammer it down 

‘’Scuse me, kid,’ he would say, ‘got to attend to my bloody hoof again This 
nail’s a mulligatawny ’ 

He would search for a round stone, squat m the ditch and carefully hammer 
the nail down 

‘There'’ he would say optimistically, feelmg the place with his thumb ‘ That 
b — ’s in his grave' 5 

The epitaph should have been Resurgam, however The nail invariably 
worked its way up again within a quarter of an hour 

Nobby had tried to make love to Dorothy, of course, and, when she repulsed 
him, bore her no grudge He had that happy temperament that is incapable of 
taking its own reverses very seriously He was always debonair, always singing 
m a lusty baritone voice-his three favourite songs were ‘Sonny Boy’, °Twas 
Christmas Day in the Workhouse’ (to the tune of ‘The Church’s One 
Foundation’), and “‘ — '” was all the band could play’, given with lively 
renderings of military music He was twenty-six years old and was a widower, 
and had been successively a seller of newspapers, a petty thief, a Borstal boy, a 
soldier, a burglar, and a tramp These facts, however, you had to piece together 
for yourself, for he was not equal to giving a consecutive account of his life His 
conversation was studded with casual picturesque memories-the six months 
he had served m a line regiment before he was invalided out with a damaged 
eye, the loathsomeness of the skilly m Holloway, his childhood in the Deptford 
gutters, the death of his wife, aged eighteen, in childbirth, when he was 
twenty, the horrible suppleness of the Borstal canes, the dull boom of the 
nitro-glycerme, blowing in the safe door at Woodward’s boot and shoe factory, 
where Nobby had cleared a hundred and twenty-five pounds and spent it m 
three weeks 

On the afternoon of the third day they reached the fringe of the hop country, 
and began to meet discouraged people, mostly tramps, trailing back to London 
with the news that there was nothing doing-hops were bad and the price 'was 
low, and the gypsies and ‘home pickers’ had collared all the jobs At this Flo 
and Charlie gave up hope altogether, but by an adroit mixture of bullying and 
persuasion Nobby managed to drive them a few miles farther. In a little village 
called Wale they fell m with an old Imhwoman-Mrs McElhgot was her 



314 A Clergyman's Daughter 

name-who had just been given a job at a neighbouring hopfield, and they 
swapped some of their stolen apples for a piece of meat she had ‘bummed’ 
earlier in the day She gave them some useful hints about hop-picking and 
about what farms to try They were all sprawling on the village green, tired 
out, opposite a little general shop with some newspaper posters outside 
‘You’d best go down’n have a try at Chalmers’s,’ Mrs McElligot advised 
them in her base Dublin accent ‘Dat’s a bit above five mile from here I’ve 
heard tell as Chalmers wants a dozen pickers still I daresay he’d give y’a job if 
you gets dere early enough ’ 

‘Five miles' Cnpes' Ain’t there none nearer’n that?’ grumbled Charlie 
‘Well, dere’s Norman’s I got a job at Norman’s meself-I’m startin’ 
tomorrow morning’ But ’twouldn’t be no use for you to try at Norman’s He 
ain’t takin’ on none but home pickers, an’ dey say as he’s goin’ to let half his 
hops blow ’ 

‘What’s home pickers?’ said Nobby 

‘Why, dem as has got homes o’ deir own Eider you got to live in de 
neighbourhood, or else de farmer’s got to give y’a hut to sleep in Dat’s de law 
nowadays In de ole days when you come down hoppm’, you kipped in a stable 
an’ dere was no questions asked But dem bloody interferin’ gets of a Labour 
Government brought in a law to say as no pickers was to be taken on widout de 
farmer had proper accommodation for ’em So Norman only takes on folks as 
has got homes o’ deir own ’ 

‘Well, you ain’t got a home of your own, have you?’ 

‘No bloody fear' But Norman t’inks I have I kidded’m I was stayin’ in a 
cottage near by Between you an’ me. I’m skipperin’ in a cow byre ’Tain’t so 
bad except for de stmk o’ de muck, but you got to be out be five m de mornm’, 
else de cowmen ’ud catch you ’ 

‘We ain’t got no experience of hopping,’ Nobby said ‘I wouldn’t know a 
bloody hop if I saw one Best to let on you’re an old hand when you go up for a 
job, eh?’ 

‘Hell 1 Hops don’t need no experience Tear ’em off an’ flmg ’em into de bin 
Dat’s all der is to it, wid hops ’ 

Dorothy was nearly asleep She heard the others talking desultorily, first 
about hop-pickmg, then about some story m the newspapers of a girl who had 
disappeared from home Flo and Charlie had been reading the posters on the 
shop-front opposite, and this had revived them somewhat, because the posters 
reminded them of London and its joys The missing girl, in whose fate they 
seemed to be rather interested, was spoken of as ‘The Rector’s Daughter’ 

‘J’a see that one, Flo?’ said Charlie, reading a poster aloud with intense 
relish ‘“Secret Love Life of Rector’s Daughter Startling Revelations ” Coo' 
Wish I ’ad a penny to ’ave a read of that!’ 

‘Oh? What’s ’t all about, then?’ 

‘What? Didn’t j’a read about it? Papers ’as bm full of it Rector’s Daughter 
this and Rector’s Daughter that- wasn’t ’alf smutty, some of it, too ’ 

‘She’s bit of hot stuff, the ole Rector’s Daughter,’ said Nobby reflec- 
tively, lying on his back ‘Wish she was here now' I’d know what to do 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 31 5 

with her, all right, I w ould ’ 

‘ ’T was a kid run away from home,’ put in Mrs McElhgot ‘She was carryin’ 
on wid a man twenty year older’n herself, an’ now she’s disappeared an’ dey’re 
searchm’ for her high an’ low * 

‘Jacked off m the middle of the night m a motor-car with no clo’es on ’cep’ 
’er nightdress,’ said Charlie appreciatively ‘The ’ole village sore ’em go ’ 
‘Dere’s some t’mk as he’s took her abroad an’ sold her to one o’ dem flash 
cat-houses in Parrus,’ added Mrs McElhgot 
‘No clo’es on ’cep’ ’er nightdress^ Dirty tart she must ’a been 1 ’ 

The conversation might have proceeded to further details, but at this 
moment Dorothy interrupted it What they were saying had roused a faint 
curiosity in her She realized that she did not know the meaning of the word 
‘Rector’ She sat up and asked Nobby 
‘What is a Rector^ 1 ’ 

‘Rector^ Why, a sky-pilot-parson bloke Bloke that preaches and gives out 
the hymns and that in church We passed one of ’em yesterday-riding a green 
bicycle and had his collar on back to front A priest-clergyman You know ’ 
‘Oh Yes, I think so ’ 

‘Priests 1 Bloody ole getsies dey are too, some o’ dem,’ said Mrs McElhgot 
reminiscently 

Dorothy was left not much the wiser What Nobby had said did enlighten 
her a little, but only a very little The whole train of thought connected with 
‘church’ and ‘clergyman’ was strangely vague and blurred in her mind It was 
one of the gaps-there was a number of such gaps-m the mysterious 
knowledge that she had brought with her out of the past 
That was their third night on the road When it was dark they slipped into a 
spinney as usual to ‘skipper’, and a little after midnight it began to pelt with 
ram They spent a miserable hour stumbling to and fro in the darkness, trying 
to find a place to shelter, and finally found a hay- stack, where they huddled 
themselves on the lee side till it was light enough to see, Flo blubbered 
throughout the night m the most intolerable manner, and by the morning she 
was in a state of semi-collapse Her silly fat face, washed clean by rain and 
tears, looked like a bladder of lard, if one can imagine a bladder of lard 
contorted with self-pity Nobby rooted about under the hedge until he had 
collected an armful of partially dry sticks, and then managed to get a fire going 
and boil some tea as usual There was no weather so bad that Nobby could not 
produce a can of tea He carried, among other things, some pieces of old 
motor tyre that would make a flare when the wood was wet, and he even 
possessed the art, known only to a few cognoscenti among tramps, of getting 
water to boil over a candle 

Everyone’s limbs had stiffened after the horrible night, and Flo declared 
herself unable to walk a step farther Charlie backed her up So, as the other 
two refused to move, Dorothy and Nobby went on to Chalmers’s farm, 
arranging a rendezvous where they should meet when they had tried their luck 
They got to Chalmers’s, five miles away, found their way through vast 
orchards to the hop-fields, and were told that the overseer ‘would be along 



316 A Clergyman's Daughter 

presently’ So they waited four hours on the edge of the plantation, with the 
sun drying their clothes on their backs, watching the hop-pickers at work It 
was a scene somehow peaceful and alluring The hop bines, tall climbing 
plants like runner beans enormously magnified, grew in green leafy lanes, with 
the hops dangling from them m pale green bunches like gigantic grapes When 
the wind stirred them they shook forth a fresh, bitter scent of sulphur and cool 
beer In each lane of bines a family of sunburnt people were shredding the 
hops into sacking bins, and singing as they worked, and presently a hooter 
sounded and they knocked off to boil cans of tea over crackling fires of hop 
bmes Dorothy envied them greatly How happy they looked, sitting round the 
fires with their cans of tea and their hunks of bread and bacon, m the smell of 
hops and wood smoke 1 She pined for such a job-however, for the present there 
was nothing doing At about one o’clock the overseer arrived and told them 
that he had no jobs for them, so they trailed back to the road, only avenging 
themselves on Chalmers’s farm by stealing a dozen apples as they went 

When they reached their rendezvous, Flo and Charlie had vanished Of 
course they searched for them, but, equally of course, they knew very well 
what had happened Indeed, it was perfectly obvious Flo had made eyes at 
some passing lorry driver, who had given the two of them a lift back to London 
for the chance of a good cuddle on the way Worse yet, they had stolen both 
bundles Dorothy and Nobby had not a scrap of food left, not a crust of bread 
nor a potato nor a pinch of tea, no bedding, and not even a snuff-tin in which to 
cook anything they could cadge or steal-nothing, m fact, except the clothes 
they stood up in 

The next thirty-six hours were a bad time-a very bad time How they pined 
for a job, in their hunger and exhaustion 1 But the chances of getting one 
seemed to grow smaller and smaller as they got farther into the hop country 
They made interminable marches from farm to farm, gettmg the same answer 
everywhere-no pickers needed-and they were so busy marching to and fro 
that they had not even time to beg, so that they had nothing to eat except stolen 
apples and damsons that tormented their stomachs with their acid juice and yet 
left them ravenously hungry It did not ram that night, but it was much colder 
than before Dorothy did not even attempt to sleep, but spent the night in 
crouching over the fire and keeping it alight They were hiding m a beech 
wood, under a squat, ancient tree that kept the wind away but also wetted them 
periodically with sprinklings of chilly dew Nobby, stretched on his back, 
mouth open, one broad cheek faintly illumined by the feeble rays of the fire, 
slept as peacefully as a child. All night long a vague wonder, born of 
sleeplessness and intolerable discomfort, kept stirring m Dorothy’s mind Was 
this the life to which she had been bred-this life of wandering empty-bellied 
all day and shivermg at night under dripping trees? Had it been like this even 
in the blank past? Where had she come from? Who was she? No answer came, 
and they were on the road at dawn By the evening they had tried at eleven 
farms m all, and Dorothy’s legs were giving out, and she was so dizzy with 
fatigue that she found difficulty in walking straight 

But late in the evening, quite unexpectedly, their luck turned They tried at 



A Clergyman’ s Daughter 317 

a farm named Cairns’s, in the village of Clintock, and were taken on 
immediately, with no questions asked The overseer merely looked them up 
and down, said briefly, ‘Right you are-you’ll do Start m the morning, bm 
number 7, set 19,’ and did not even bother to ask their names Hop-pickmg, it 
seemed, needed neither character nor experience 
They found their way to the meadow where the pickers’ camp was situated 
In a dreamlike state, between exhaustion and the joy of having got a job at last, 
Dorothy found herself walking through a maze of tin-roofed huts and gypsies’ 
caravans with many-coloured washing hanging from the windows Hordes of 
children swarmed m the narrow grass alleys between the huts, and ragged, 
agreeable-looking people were cooking meals over innumerable faggot fires At 
the bottom of the field there were some round tin huts, much inferior to the 
others, set apart for unmarried people An old man who was toasting cheese at 
a fire directed Dorothy to one of the women’s huts 
Dorothy pushed open the door of the hut It was about twelve feet across, 
with unglazed windows which had been boarded up, and it had no furniture 
whatever There seemed to be nothing in it but an enormous pile of straw 
reaching to the roof-m fact, the hut was almost entirely filled with straw To 
Dorothy’s eyes, already sticky with sleep, the straw looked paradisically 
comfortable She began to push her way into it, and was checked by a sharp 
yelp from beneath her 

‘’Ere' What yer doing’ of? Get off of it 1 ’Oo asked you to walk about on my 
belly, stoopid?’ 

Seemingly there were women down among the straw Dorothy burrowed 
foward more circumspectly, tripped over something, sank into the straw and m 
the same instant began to fall asleep A rough-looking woman, partially 
undressed, popped up like a mermaid from the strawy sea 
°Ullo, mate'’ she said ‘Jest about all m, ain’t you, mate?’ 

‘Yes, I’m tired- very tired ’ 

‘Well, you’ll bloody freeze m this straw with no bed-clo’es on you Ain’t you 
got a blanket?’ 

‘No,’ 

°Alf a mo, then I got a poke ’ere ’ 

She dived down into the straw and re-emerged with a hop-poke seven feet 
long Dorothy was asleep already She allowed herself to be woken up, and 
inserted herself somehow into the sack, which was so long that she could get 
into it head and all, and then she was half wriggling, half sinking down, deep 
down, into a nest of straw warmer and drier than she had conceived possible. 
The straw tickled her nostrils and got into her hair and pricked her even 
through the sack, but at that moment no imaginable sleeping place-not 
Cleopatra’s couch of swan’s-down nor the floating bed of Haroun al 
Raschid-could have caressed her more voluptuously 



3 


It was remarkable how easily, once you had got a job, you settled down to the 
routine of hop-picking After only a week of it you ranked as an expert picker, 
and felt as though you had been picking hops all your life 

It was exceedingly easy work Physically, no doubt, it was exhaustmg-it 
kept you on your feet ten or twelve hours a day, and you were dropping with 
sleep by six in the evening-but it needed no kind of skill Quite a third of the 
pickers in the camp were as new to the job as Dorothy herself Some of them 
had come down from London with not the dimmest idea of what hops were 
like, or how you picked them, or why One man, it was said, on his first 
morning on the way to the fields, had asked, ‘Where are the spades^’ He 
imagined that hops were dug up out of the ground 
Except for Sundays, one day at the hop camp was very like another At half 
past five, at a tap on the wall of your hut, you crawled out of your sleeping nest 
and began searching for your shoes, amid sleepy curses from the women (there 
were six or seven or possibly even eight of them) who were buried here and 
there m the straw In that vast pile of straw any clothes that you were so unwise 
as to take off always lost themselves immediately You grabbed an armful of 
straw and another of dried hop bmes, and a faggot from the pile outside, and 
got the fire going for breakfast Dorothy always cooked Nobby’s breakfast as 
well as her own, and tapped on the wall of his hut when it was ready, she being 
better at waking up m the mormng than he It was very cold on those 
September mornings, the eastern sky was fading slowly from black to cobalt, 
and the grass was silvery white with dew Your breakfast was always the 
same-bacon, tea, and bread fried in the grease of the bacon While you ate it 
you cooked another exactly similar meal, to serve for dinner, and then, 
carrying your dinner-pail, you set out for the fields, a mile-and-a-half walk 
through the blue, windy dawn, with your nose running so m the cold that you 
had to stop occasionally and wipe it on your sacking apron 

The hops were divided up into plantations of about an acre, and each 
set-forty pickers or thereabouts, under a foreman who was often a 
gypsy-picked one plantation at a time The bines grew twelve feet high or 
more, and they were trained up strings, and slung over horizontal wires, m 
rows a yard or two apart, m each row there was a sacking bin like a very deep 
hammock slung on a heavy wooden frame As soon as you arrived you swung 
your bin into position, slit the strings from the next two bines, and tore them 
down-huge, tapering strands of foliage, like the plaits of Rapunzel’s hair, that 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 319 

came tumbling down on top of you, showering you with dew You dragged 
them into place over the bin, and then, starting at the thick end of the bine, 
began tearing off the heavy bunches of hops At that hour of the morning you 
could only pick slowly and awkwardly Your hands were still stiff and the 
coldness of the dew numbed them, and the hops were wet and slippery The 
great difficulty was to pick the hops without picking the leaves and stalks as 
well, for the measurer was liable to refuse your hops if they had too many 
leaves among them 

The stems of the bines were covered with minute thorns which within two 
or three days had torn the skm of your hands to pieces In the morning it was a 
torment to begin picking when your fingers were almost too stiff to bend and 
bleeding in a dozen places, but the pain wore off when the cuts had reopened 
and the blood was flowing freely If the hops were good and you picked well, 
you could strip a bine m ten minutes, and the best bines yielded half a bushel of 
hops But the hops varied greatly from one plantation to another In some they 
were as large as walnuts, and hung m great leafless bunches which you could 
rip off with a single twist, in others they were miserable things no bigger than 
peas, and grew so thmly that you had to pick them one at a time Some hops 
were so bad that you could not pick a bushel of them in an hour 

It was slow work m the early morning, before the hops were dry enough to 
handle But presently the sun came out, and the lovely, bitter odour began to 
stream from the warming hops, and people’s early-morning surliness wore off, 
and the work got into its stride From eight till midday you were picking, 
picking, picking, in a sort of passion of work-a passionate eagerness, which 
grew stronger and stronger as the morning advanced, to get each bine done and 
shift your bin a little farther along the row At the beginning of each plantation 
all the bins started abreast, but by degrees the better pickers forged ahead, and 
some of them had finished their lane of hops when the others were barely half- 
way along, whereupon, if you were far behind, they were allowed to turn back 
and finish your row for you* which was called ‘stealing your hops’ Dorothy 
and Nobby were always among the last, there being only two of them-there 
were four people at most of the bins And Nobby was a clumsy picker, with his 
great coarse hands, on the whole, the women picked better than the men 

It Was always a neck and neck race between the two bins on either side of 
Dorothy and Nobby, bin number 6 and bin number 8 Bin number 6 was a 
family of gypsies-a curly-headed, ear-ringed father, an old dried-up leather- 
coloured mother, and two strapping sons- and bin number 8 was an old East 
End costerwoman who wore a broad hat and long black cloak and took snuff 
out of a papierm&chC box with a steamer painted on the lid She was always 
helped by relays of daughters and granddaughters who came down from 
London for two days at a time There was quite a troop of children working 
with the set, following the bins with baskets and gathering up the fallen hops 
while the adults picked And the old costerwoman’s tiny, pale granddaughter 
Rose, and a little gypsy girl, dark as an Indian, were perpetually slipping off to 
steal autumn raspberries and make swings out of hop bines; and the constant 
singing round the bins was pierced by shrill cries from the costerwoman of. 



220 A Clergyman’s Daughter 

‘Go on, Rose, you lazy little cat’ Pick them ’ops up’ I’ll warm your a — for you 1 ’ 
etc , etc 

Quite half the pickers m the set were gypsies-there were not less than two 
hundred of them m the camp Diddykies, the other pickers called them They 
were not a bad sort of people, friendly enough, and they flattered you grossly 
when they wanted to get anything out of you, yet they were sly, with the 
impenetrable slyness of savages In their oafish, Oriental faces there was a look 
as of some wild but sluggish animal-a look of dense stupidity existing side by 
side with untameable cunning Their talk consisted of about half a dozen 
remarks which they repeated over and over again without ever growing tired of 
them The two young gypsies at bm number 6 would ask Nobby and Dorothy 
as many as a dozen times a day the same conundrum 
‘What is it the cleverest man m England couldn’t do ? ’ 

‘I don’t know What>’ 

‘Tickle a gnat’s a — with a telegraph pole ’ 

At this, never-failing bellows of laughter They were all abysmally ignorant, 
they informed you with pride that not one of them could read a single word 
The old curly-headed father, who had conceived some dim notion that 
Dorothy was a ‘scholard’, once seriously asked her whether he could drive his 
caravan to New York 

At twelve o’clock a hooter down at the farm signalled to the pickers to knock 
off work for an hour, and it was generally a little before this that the measurer 
came round to collect the hops At a warning shout from the foreman of ‘ ’Ops 
ready, number nineteen 1 ’ everyone would hasten to pick up the fallen hops, 
finish off the tendrils that had been left unpicked here and there, and clear the 
leaves out of the bm There was an art in that It did not pay to pick too ‘clean’, 
for leaves and hops alike all went to swell the tally The old hands, such as the 
gypsies, were adepts at knowing just how ‘dirty’ it was safe to pick 
The measurer would come round, carrying a wicker basket which held a 
bushel, and accompanied by the ‘bookie,’ who entered the pickings of each bm 
in a ledger The ‘bookies’ were young men, clerks and chartered accountants 
and the like, who took this job as a paying holiday The measurer would scoop 
the hops out of the bm a bushel at a time, intoning as he did so, ‘One 1 Two 1 
Three’ Four!’ and the pickers would enter the number in their tally books 
Each bushel they picked earned them twopence, and naturally there were 
endless quarrels and accusations of unfairness over the measuring. Hops are 
spongy thmgs-you can crush a bushel of them into a quart pot if you choose, 
so after each scoop one of the pickers would lean over into the bm and stir the 
hops up to make them he looser, and then the measurer would hoist the end of 
the bm and shake the hops together again Some mornings he had orders to 
‘take them heavy’, and would shovel them in so that he got a couple of bushels 
at each scoop, whereat there were angry yells of, ‘Look how the b— ’s ramming 
them down’ Why don’t you bloody well stamp on thenP’ etc.; and the old 
hands would say darkly that they had known measurers to be ducked in 
qowponds on the last day of picking From the bins the hops were put into 
pokes which theoretically held a hundredweight; but it took two men to hoist a 



A Clergyman’s Daughter 321 

full poke when the measurer had been ‘taking them heavy’ You had an hour 
for dinner, and you made a fire of hop bmes-this was forbidden, but everyone 
did lt-and heated up your tea and ate your bacon sandwiches After dinner you 
were picking again till five or six m the evening, when the measurer came* once 
more to take your hops, after which you were free to go back to the camp 
Looking back, afterwards, upon her interlude of hop-picking, it was always 
the afternoons that Dorothy remembered Those long, laborious hours in the 
strong sunlight, m the sound of forty voices singing, m the smell of hops and 
wood smoke, had a quality peculiar and unforgettable As the afternoon wore 
on you grew almost too tired to stand, and the small green hop lice got into 
your hair and into your ears and worried you, and your hands, from the 
sulphurous juice, were as black as a Negro’s except where they were bleeding 
Yet you were happy, with an unreasonable happiness The work took hold of 
you and absorbed you It was stupid work, mechanical, exhausting, and every 
day more painful to the hands, and yet you never wearied of it, when the 
weather was fine and the hops were good you had the feeling that you could go 
on picking for ever and for ever It gave you a physical joy, a warm satisfied 
feeling inside you, to stand there hour after hour, tearing off the heavy clusters 
and watching the pale green pile grow higher and higher in your bin, every 
bushel another twopence in your pocket The sun burned down upon you, 
baking you brown, and the bitter, never-pallmg scent, like a wind from oceans 
of cool beer, flowed into your nostrils and refreshed you When the sun was 
shining everybody sang as they worked, the plantations rang with singing For 
some reason all the songs were sad that autumn- songs about rejected love and 
fidelity unrewarded, like gutter versions of Carmen and Manon Lescaut There 
was 


There they go~in their joy- 
’Appy gul-lucky boy- 
But ’ere am /-/-/- 
Broken- Va-arted 1 


And there was 


But I’m dan-cmg with tears-in my eyes- 
’Cos the girl-in my arms-isn’t you-o-ou 1 


And 


The bells-are nnging-for Sally- 
But no-o-ot-for Sally-and me' 

The little gypsy girl used to sing over and over again 

We’re so misable, all so misable, 

Down on Misable Farm' 


And though everyone told her that the name of it was Misery Farm, she 



322 A Clergyman's Daughter 

persisted in calling it Misable Farm The old costerwoman and her 
granddaughter Rose had a hop-pickmg song which went 

‘Our lousy ’ops' 

Our lousy ’ops 1 

When the measurer ’e comes round. 

Pick ’em up, pick ’em up off the ground 1 
When ’e comes to measure, 

’E never knows where to stop, 

Ay, ay, get in the bin 
And take the bloody lot 1 ’ 

‘There they go m their joy’, and ‘The bells are ringing for Sally’, were the 
especial favourites The pickers never grew tired of singing them, they must 
have sung both of them several hundred times over before the sea